Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big Oil and Gas Weaken Fracking Bill

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM

The power and influence that Big Oil and Gas wield in California is on display once again this week in Sacramento. Lobbyists for large oil and gas conglomerates are forcing East Bay Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski to water down legislation he wrote that seeks to regulate fracking in the state, the LA Times reports.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the controversial practice of shooting toxic chemicals and water into the earth to release otherwise hard-to-extract natural gas and oil. Fracking has led to a boom in natural gas production in the United States, and has sparked a backlash from environmentalists and consumer advocates over concerns about groundwater contamination and other pollution problems.

Fracking.jpg

Wieckowski’s bill originally sought to require oil and gas companies to disclose exactly which chemicals they use in their fracking wells. But his legislation stalled last year when lobbyists for large oil and gas companies convinced enough Democrats in the state capital to block it. The companies, which also are among the biggest campaign donors in state politics, said they didn’t want to reveal their “trade secrets.” As a result, Wieckowski, who is from Fremont, has substantially weakened his bill to the point that it would allow oil and gas companies to not disclose the chemicals they pump into the earth by filing a “trade secrets” claim with state regulators.

Bob Wieckowski
  • Bob Wieckowski
State officials could still compel the companies to reveal the identities of the chemicals they use in the event of an emergency, but only if state officials swear under oath not to reveal the chemicals to the public. Although Wieckowski’s bill represents an improvement over the current nonexistent state regulations governing fracking, in part because it would require oil and gas companies to disclose the locations of their fracking wells, the weakness of the amended legislation serves as another reminder of the juice Big Oil and Gas continues to enjoy even in blue states like California.

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