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Calif. Environmental Quality Act fracking

Paul Taylor

The U.N.’s fifth “Climate Assessment” says there’s a growing U.N. sense that climate impacts may have been overestimated in the past, and that climate science is too uncertain to justify a single estimate of future (temperature) rises. With a conservative realignment election in Australia, a repeal of climate carbon taxes is moving through its legislature. Global sea ice is reported to be growing at the highest rate in seven years.

But, “green tyranny” persists among political partisans at national and local governments. Obama’s nominee for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chief, Ron Binz, says that the renaissance of natural gas energy due to underground hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a “dead-end” energy source from his perspective as a regulator. In Los Angeles, newly-elected progressive City Councilman Mike Bonin (Dist. 11) wants fracking banned in L.A. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 13, 2013)

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) wants oil companies conducting fracking on wells to be exempted from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The WSPA, representing BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, cautioned California lawmakers that California Senate Bill (S.B. 4) would mandate CEQA environmental clearances for fracking of the state's 50,000 existing oil and natural gas wells. The WSPA contends that CEQA entanglements would result in a de facto moratorium on the industry.

Predictably, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Environmental Working Group, Clean Water Action and other green lobbyists want to further obstruct energy production by expansion of CEQA regulations that would retard, if not halt, fracking and the natural gas renaissance. Hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation processes and technologies have not heretofore been subject to CEQA regulations.

Eco-groups wanted S.B. 4 to require for the first time that oil and natural gas companies obtain permits for hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation activities. Such permits from the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) would include CEQA processing and approvals. (EnergyWire, Sept. 9, 2013) S.B. 4 passed last week without the CEQA review requirement, and will be signed by Gov. Brown for 2014 implementation.

In 2011 the Federal Energy Information Administration reported that California’s Monterey shale formation, which occupying some 1,750 square miles of California’s Central Valley, could hold 15.42 billion barrels of recoverable oil, or 64% of the total estimated recoverable oil in the 48 contiguous states. This Monterey shale is California’s opportunity to participate in the natural gas renaissance via fracking. (L.A. Ecopolitics Examiner, February 17, 2013)

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