Following the adoption of anti-environmental amendments to Senate Bill 4 under intense pressure from the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) on Friday, September 6, major environmental, consumer and progressive groups are calling on Fran Senator Pavley to withdraw the bill.

The bill, the only remaining bill in the California legislature addressing hydraulic fracturing, was amended on the Assembly floor on Friday in ways that “undermine existing environmental law and leave Californians unprotected from fracking and other dangerous and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques,” according to a statement from Californians Against Fracking.

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid – typically water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to cause cancer – are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well, according to Food and Water Watch.

SB 4 would require permits for fracking, acidizing and other oil well stimulation practices, according to a news release from Senator Pavley’s Office on August 30. Supporters of the legislation include the Natural Resources Defense Council and California League of Conservation Voters,

“This bill will address serious unanswered questions about the safety and environmental risks of fracking and acidizing,” Senator Pavley claimed. “California needs strict regulations to hold the oil industry accountable for the true costs of its activities.”

However, over 100 groups, including the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, Civic Action, CREDO, Friends of the Earth, California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) and the Center for Biological Diversity, oppose Pavley’s bill, saying it will pave the way for increased fracking.

“Senate Bill 4, already a seriously flawed bill, has been further undermined and does not protect Californians from the threats that fracking poses to our water, air and communities,” said Adam Scow, California campaigns director for Food & Water Watch. “It’s time for Senator Pavley to drop this bill.”

“New amendments to Senator Pavley’s Senate Bill 4 could pave the way for more fracking between now and 2015,” said Ross Hammond, senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “The latest round of amendments would require state officials to continue allowing fracking while environmental review would be conducted only after the fact.”

Key dangerous provisions in the latest amendments include:

• New language added to the bill specifies that “no additional review or mitigation shall be required” if the supervisor of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources “determines” that the proposed fracking activities have met the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

“This provision could be used by DOGGR to bypass CEQA’s bedrock environmental review and mitigation requirements,” according to the groups. “This language could also prevent air and water boards, local land use jurisdictions and other agencies from carrying out their own CEQA reviews of fracking.”

• In addition, under existing law, the governor and DOGGR can deny approvals for wells that involve fracking or place a partial or complete moratorium on fracking. The new language states that DOGGR “shall allow” fracking to take place until regulations are finalized in 2015 provided that certain conditions are met.

“This could be interpreted to require every fracked well to be approved between now and 2015, with environmental review conducted only after the fact, and could be used to block the Governor or DOGGR from issuing a moratorium on fracking prior to 2015,” the groups stated.

“With the new amendments added, Senator Pavley’s weak fracking bill has gone over the edge and become dangerous,” said Zack Malitz, campaign manager for CREDO Action, “If this bill passes as amended, it will allow the fracking industry to shoot holes in CEQA, potentially exempting fracking from our state’s most important environmental law. It’s time for Senator Fran Pavley to withdraw this hopelessly compromised bill.”

“With the greatest respect for Senator Pavley and her efforts this session, we urge her to withdraw this bill because it could undermine existing environmental law and leave Californians in the short term with even fewer protections from fracking than the law currently provides,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California, declined to comment on the details of discussions with lawmakers, according to the Sacramento Bee.

However, she “dismissed the notion that her organization is trying to avoid the CEQA review process, which the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, or DOGGR, administers for wells.”

(The article above was written by Dan Bacher and published in his blog)