A Cheneyesque fracking loophole in California’s recent SB4 legislation re-sets the national tone of the oil & gas industry towards home and land owner’s properties to ‘uncertain.’
Oil Change International confirmed Robert Gammon’s reporting this morning that Governor Brown received 2.4 million in financial donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according to public records on file with the Secretary of State’s Office and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Of the total, $770,000 went to Brown’s two Oakland charter schools — the Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute. The other $1.72 million went to his statewide political campaigns for attorney general and governor, along with his Proposition 30 ballot-measure campaign last year.
The “Golden” state, known for leading the way in its renewable portfolio standards to 33% by 2020, may now instead be marred with the unintended consequences of ‘green lighting,’ rather than abating the practice of fracking. Vice President Cheney originally set the ‘fracking loophole’ into motion to skirt the Clean Water Act given the Bush Energy Policy of 2005.
“The loopholes,” writes Sofia Plagakis from the Center for Effective Government, “regarding waivers of an environmental impact analysis leave the legislation ineffective in protecting public health and the environment for the next two years. Environmental groups and communities are calling on Brown and state lawmakers to fix these provisions and to impose a moratorium until the state can full assess the threats of fracking and acidization to California’s air, water, and communities.”
Despite an applauded-by-activists planned online disclosure of what is contained in the chemical cocktail being injected into the subsurface; under the new legislation, fracking will not be regulated by the State Water Quality Control Board’s underground injection program, but instead given to the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), potentially circumventing California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA.)
“The big picture,” per Adam Scow, California Director for Food and Water Watch, “is that SB4 never did anything to make fracking safer or to slow it down.”
Disclosure of anything material to a prospective home, land buyer meets standard of care
Disclosing any information ‘material’ to the sale of a home or land constitutes California’s standard of care. Residential and Commercial Real Estate Disclosure giant First American Real Estate Disclosures JCP-LGS division currently produces an environmental screening report that discloses the location of active and abandoned oil and gas wells within ¼-mile of the sale property.
The firm’s licensed geologist Patrick McClellan released the statement, “We are evaluating the availability and usefulness of data from the California Department of Conservation to determine whether a property-specific disclosure of fracking operations is feasible.”
The California Association of Realtors said they were looking into the issue.
Already per the South Coast AQMD Rule 1148.2 Well Stimulation notifications mapping project, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has implemented noticing and reporting requirements for oil and gas wells within its district. This is called rule 1148.2 and requires oil operators to submit specific reports of well activity related to well stimulation and drilling. The type of well stimulations reported include Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking), Acidizing (acid-fracking) and gravel packing (smaller-scale fracking). Along with these reports, chemical notification is also required.
Wait a minute, I thought the California Democratic Party’s position on fracking was to support a moratorium, something like in New York
What changed? The California Democratic party passed several resolutions saying no to fracking at its heavily attended convention in Sacramento only just in April. Tenoch Flores, Communications Director for the party simply responded with an honest, “I don’t know,” then forwarded this link to the actual fracking resolution adopted.
And then they came, 4 last minute amendments; Amendment 24, the worst of them. Like something out of a Dick Cheney horror flick to environmentalists- in came the actual language:
Where the supervisor determines the activities proposed in the well simulation treatment permit or the combined authorization have met all of the requirements of Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000), and have been fully described, analyzed, evaluated, and mitigated, no additional review or mitigation shall be required.”
Climate Hawks react to fracking regulation
RL Miller, Chair of the California Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus, and founder of the Climate Hawks SuperPac rekindled what occurred from her perspective as a leader on the fracking issue in the Earth Island Journal : “A California Fracking Moratorium Post-Mortem.
“The September 6 amendments were so bad that the CA League of Conservation Voters, NRDC, Environmental Working Group, and Clean Water Action pulled their support of SB4. However, they didn’t send out their big press release until mid-morning Wednesday, September 11 around the same time as the Assembly began voting on SB4. A couple of Assemblymembers stated on Twitter that they didn’t know that support had been pulled until after they voted.”
“Under the new changes,” notes Miller, “fracking would be able to continue without permits until 2015. Yes, you read that right — the bill intended to make frackers get permits now says that the state regulatory agency shall allow all of the currently ongoing, unpermitted fracking and acidizing to keep on fracking and acidizing without permits until regulations are written in 2015.”
Propaganda Fracking Wars
Miller recalls, “Some troubling signs appeared up right away. A lot of stories and columns and op-eds extolling the financial benefits of the Monterey Shale popped up in a lot of strange places. It was almost as though a wealthy industry was gearing up a sophisticated yet stealthy public relations campaign in anticipation of a tough public fight.
Miller refers to Governor Jerry Brown as a ‘former environmentalist ‘who called fracking a “fabulous economic opportunity” and signaled that he would not impose a moratorium. A state senator told Miller: “Governor Brown has cut a deal with the oil companies.” “Sure enough,” Miller writes, “they had rounded up a million dollars to give to his Proposition 30 last year. Then Occidental maxed out donating his 2014 reelection campaign in June 2013 — almost as if Oxy were sending a signal that it approved of his activities on its behalf.”
Lastly she reported, “A report mostly funded by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) predicted billions of dollars and millions of jobs from California’s next black gold rush. I’m told that a Brown staffer shoved the report down the throat of any recalcitrant legislator interested in a moratorium. By the way, WSPA is California’s biggest spending lobbyist. Chevron is number six. “
Climate Hawk Damien Luzzo wrote in his diary on the Daily Kos in Fracking up the Golden State Part 1 that “the hesitation to ignite a blitzkrieg of oil and gas extraction in California has finally been lifted.”
To add, ‘Truthland’ was released to counter the documentaries Gasland and Gasland II. However, not long afterwards the ‘Mom-teacher-documentarian’ confessed the entire documentary was scripted, with interviews arranged by the Pennsylvannia Oil & Gas Trade Association. She not only confessed to that, but that her family and dairy herd operation were desperate for the money. Lastly, one of the wells on the property too, became contaminated.
Further fracking clues in hindsight
Additionally, taking the trail back to 2012, the LA Times broke the story that Brown asked officials to develop a permitting shortcut for firms hoping to employ underground injection, a risky method of oil extraction common in California.
Department of Conservation head Derek Chernow wrote a memo stating that easing regulations on underground injection would violate environmental laws.
The process, in which a rush of steam, water, and chemicals flushes oil from depleted wells, had been linked to spills, eruptions and the death of a worker in Kern County. The federal Environmental Protection Administration had asked the state to tighten its regulations, but the oil industry complained in a letter-writing campaign to Brown that the strict rules were hurting a key state business.
A week after the memo was written, Brown had Chernow removed, along with a deputy, Elena Miller, the Times said. The governor appointed replacements who agreed to stop subjecting every underground injection project to a comprehensive review before issuing a permit.
Campaign contributions wouldn’t have anything to do with having passed fracking loopholes, would it have…
Maplight has documented opposition correlative with campaign contributions to the very first version of fracking moratorium legislation from special interest groups that both supported and opposed it. The bill was written by Holly Mitchell as a 5 year fracking moratorium known as AB 1323 – An Act to Add Sections 3017 and 3203.5 to the Public Resources Code, Relating to Oil and Gas. The bill was voted on by the Assembly on May 30, 2013.
Maplight documented opposition to the bill from the petroleum and chemical industries who donated more than 7 times as much money than the supporters aligned with grassroots groups supporting environmental policies to have killed the bill early on.
The Third Carbon Age: politicians as indentured servants for the oil and gas industry
Robert Kennedy Jr. who was instrumental in the moratorium on fracking in New York introduced his guest this past weekend on a broadcast of Ring of Fire Radio as Professor Michael Klare, author of Race for What’s Left, and Blood for Oil; as a discussion of the third carbon age in terms of why the U.S. is remiss to invest in clean energy, and how the political clout the oil and gas industry has per campaign contributions; has rendered politicians but ‘indentured servants’ for the oil industry.
The professor declared the argument that natural gas as a bridge fuel was delusional, and a misleading effort by the oil and gas industry to perpetuate the fossil fuel industry.
The International Energy Agency located in Paris, cited Klare; estimated that over the next 25 years some 22 trillion dollars worth of investments will be made into both conventional and unconventional carbon based fuels with an ever-increasing share of the fossil fuel total coming from unconventionals, such as deep-water, shale oil and gas, Arctic oil, fracked and piped oils such as tar sands and other unconventional projects to try to make up for the loss of oil, at a ratio of 3:1 to clean renewables. “So in 25 years, we will be in a worse predicament that we are in now.”
How fracking could cancel California’s attempts to lower carbon emissions
Academic journals are just now catching up to the famous Cheney loophole consequences by publishing studies showing the effects of off-gassing from fracked wells examining the correlations with green house gaseous release, earthquakes, and contaminated drinking water.
Methane emissions from fracking are not currently regulated by CARB
Melanie Turner Public Information Officer of the California Air Resources Board states that methane emissions from fracking are not currently regulated by CARB and that ARB is investigating the feasibility of a regulation under the Global Warming act AB 32 to reduce venting and fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production, processing and storage.
Turner says “From this effort we hope to propose a regulation for our Board’s consideration in late 2014. This effort was not originally envisioned with fracking in mind. However, with the recent passage of SB 4, (CARB) hopes to procure adequate resources that will allow an expansion of investigations to consider and capture methane and other emissions resulting from fracking activities.”
Turner notes too that the local air districts have been regulating volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and gas operations for about 30 years. Many of the local air district rules that control the venting and fugitive VOC emissions from, for example, wells, leaking equipment and tanks, also have the co-benefit of controlling the emissions of methane, albeit indirectly.
She adds “We anticipate working with sister agencies at the local level, as well as with the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources and other relevant agencies, to coordinate efforts and maximize the effectiveness of measures to address fracking emissions.”
Methane emissions from fracking to be regulated per SB4 by CARB, sort of
Turner says SB 4 directs the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources to enter into interagency agreements with the state water control boards, the ARB, other state agencies and the local air districts. “Those agreements will delineate the regulatory authorities and responsibilities among the various agencies involved, with the signatory agencies then developing and implementing regulations or other measures, as needed, to effectuate the terms and conditions of the agreements in accordance with state law. While those agreements have yet to be developed, we are hoping that implementation of SB 4 allows us to expand our investigation on the feasibility of addressing fracking-related methane emissions, as noted above.”
Consumers suspicious of off gassing of wells ought to report this to…..
Turner offers direction to consumers suspicious of methane emissions coming from an oil and gas operation in general or a fracking operation in particular, to contact his or her local air pollution control district or air quality management district. Methane emissions often accompany emissions of VOCs from oil and gas operations, so the districts may want to follow up with the consumer.
If the suspicion is about methane emissions possibly coming from an above-ground or underground pipeline, commercial building or a home, the consumer should contact his or her local gas utility immediately.
Public comment participation opportunities of special interest to home and land owners
Given the real time flood of incoming reports of health incidences such as those being reported in Culver City, Los Angeles County CA- towns running out of water, towns passing laws to be sure enough water is kept for purposes other than fracking, and yet other land and home owners and entire towns drinking water contaminated; home and land owners will be smart to subscribe to DOGGRS list serve to learn when public comment periods will take place before the 1st of the year when the new rules SB4 legislation requires.
Ed Wilson Public Affairs Office California Department of Conservation has said that the notice of proposed rulemaking action will be emailed to everyone who has subscribed to the List Serve, it will be mailed to everyone who has requested paper notice, and it will be posted on the DOC and DOGGR websites. There will also be a notice published in the California Regulatory Notice Register.
The notice of proposed rulemaking action will specify how long the public comment period will run, where to mail/email written comments, when and where public comment hearings will be conducted, and who to contact with questions about the rulemaking. The release of the draft regulations is likely before the end of the year.
The “discussion draft” of regulations with hyperlinks is here
Videos of the five 2013 “discussion draft” workshops are now available here
Narrative/background about the development of the “discussion draft” regulations here
Frequently-asked questions are here
Members of the public who wish to comment about the “discussion draft” of regulations are invited to email email@example.com
If you wish to subscribe to a mailing list for information about the ongoing process of developing hydraulic fracturing regulations, click here