Monday, March 25, 2013

California considers fracking moratorium

Democrats in the California state assembly have introduced measures to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until state regulators evaluate the public health and environmental concerns.
Following in the steps of New York and New Jersey, three measures were introduced in the California legislature this week to ban fracking and wait for state regulators determine if the practice is safe and what regulations would be needed to move forward.
“Fracking operations have skyrocketed in recent years throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations,” said Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom, whose bill would ban fracking until regulations are implemented. “However, fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that pose serious threats to public health and the environment.”

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Unanimous Vote in Florida!

I am pleased to announce that my home state of Florida may soon become the fourth state with a law on the books enforcing hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") chemical disclosure. The Florida House of Representatives' Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee voted unanimously (11-0) on March 7 to require chemical disclosure from the fracking industry. For many, that is cause for celebration and applause.
Currently there is a loophole in the law that allows companies to keep communities ignorant of the chemicals the fracking industry is dumping onto their drinking water. 
That loophole is referred to by many as the "Halliburton Loophole" because Dick Cheney had left his position as CEO of Halliburton -- one of the largest oil and gas services corporations in the world -- to become vice president and convene the Energy Task Force. That Task Force consisted of the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. One of its key actions was opening the floodgates for unfettered fracking nationwide.
Between 2001 and the bill's passage in 2005, the Task Force held over 300 meetings with oil and gas industry lobbyists and upper-level executives. The result was a slew of giveaways to the industry in this omnibus piece of legislation. On top of the "Halliburton Loophole," the bill also contains an exemption for fracking from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fracking Interests have Senator in their Pocket

Shouldn’t your senator be allowed to vote on an issue as important as fracking? We think so, but apparently Senate Majority Coalition Leader Skelos doesn’t agree.
Senator Carlucci introduced a bill (S-4046) that would allow time to study the health impacts of fracking and establish a two-year moratorium within our borders.
But Senator Skelos has said that he won’t bring it up for a vote.
The magic number in the Senate is 32. If there are 32 Senators supporting a bill, it will pass. We need to build the co-sponsor list to show support for a rational time-out on fracking and we need your help.
Your Senator hasn’t supported this bill yet—please contact their office today and ask them to co-sponsor.
We have only one way to protect New Yorkers from fracking’s dangers:  to prevent disasters before they happen. This bill gives us the time to fully study the health impacts of fracking—so that science can truly drive the state’s plans, rather than the heavy hand of the gas industry.
But Senator Skelos says that he won’t let it go to the floor for a vote. Can you believe that? Won't even let it get on the floor for a vote! That's how tightly the fracking industry has the Senate Majority Leader by the balls.

      We shouldn't put up with this blatant suppression of the will of the People. Call your Congressman (they count one phone call as equal to a hundred emails!) and tell them to give bill S-4046 a fighting chance.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Much to like in new Illinois Fracking Bill

     A bill recently introduced in the Illinois House, HB 2615, would change much of what environmentalists find objectionable in current fracking regulations (or lack thereof).
     The bill was crafted over the past eight months by a team of House members led by John Bradley, a Democrat from Carbondale. Also involved in the crafting of the bill were representatives of the oil and gas industry, as well as four statewide environmental groups: Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment Illinois and Faith in Place. According to those groups, the regulatory framework that would be established by HB 2615 is stricter than that in effect in any other state.

     First among these stricter provisions are protections for water and air. HB 2615 requires that all of the flowback from fracking be stored in closed tanks rather than open pits, which is the norm now in states without such regulations. This drastically reduces the risks of spills, overflows and floodwater contamination, as well as other issues associated with the open storage of water mixed with hazardous substances.

The bill also protects against the pollution of water sources by stipulating practices in the construction and maintenance of gas wells, and it establishes a monitoring regime to verify that wells perform properly.

Under the monitoring regime, nearby water sources are sampled on a before-and-after basis. If new contamination is detected in post-fracking tests, the fracking company is presumed to be liable for it.
Illinois residents will also be pleased with the bill's provisions for public participation in the permitting process. It enables anyone who may be affected by a fracking operation to request a public hearing on the permit for it, and it stipulates that those are "contested case" hearings.
In such hearings, parties are allowed to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses, and the proceedings are documented so they can be cited in legal appeals.Much of the controversy around fracking elsewhere in the U.S. has arisen where oil and gas companies are able to keep secret what chemicals they are injecting into the ground in the process of fracking.

HB 2615 would require fracking companies to disclose to IDNR a list of all substances used in fracking fluids, the formulas for those fluids and their processes. This makes that material subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. In such cases, the bill provides that IDNR determines which parts of this information are proprietary, not the operators, as is the case in other states.
There is, of course, much more to HB 2615 than this, from setback requirements that keep wells a certain distance from homes, schools and hospitals, to reclamation standards that establish conditions for sites after wells are taken out of operation. People can learn more by visiting This Bill could well serve as a model for other states to emulate.