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L.A. County Supervisors back study, state regulation of fracking

City News Service | 4/2/2013, 9:46 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The Board of Supervisors today split 3-2 in favor of proposed state regulation of hydraulic fracturing to access oil and natural gas, known as "fracking."

Senate Bill 4, sponsored by State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, seeks a study of pumping a slurry into wells at high pressure to crack rock formations and release trapped oil and gas deposits. The bill also seeks to establish regulation of the practice.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is prohibited from regulating hydraulic fracking under the 2005 Safe Drinking Water Act.

"The state Legislature and Gov. Brown now have the opportunity to appropriately regulate fracking and protect public health and safety," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said in calling on his colleagues to support
Pavley's bill.

Opponents of hydraulic fracking, which was first begun in the late 1940s, are worried about groundwater contamination the possibility of triggering a seismic event, among other things.

Proponents of the technology say it vastly expands access to natural gas, offers a path to energy independence and creates jobs without harming the environment.

An engineer for the county's Department of Public Works said there was little information available about the effects of fracking on groundwater supplies.

Pavley's bill would mandate water quality testing and an independent study to address health and safety issues raised by opponents of fracking. It would also direct the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to adopt regulations by Jan. 1, 2015, requiring oil companies to disclose what fluids they use in fracking, while providing trade secret protection for the chemical formulas for slurries.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich said he wasn't prepared to support the legislation without more information.

"We need to (know) what other states are doing," Antonovich said, adding that North Dakota is reaping an economic windfall from fracking. "How does it impact the city of Long Beach?"

Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents the Fourth District that includes Long Beach, said he had backed an earlier draft of Pavley's bill but could not support it in its current form.

The county's lobbyists in Sacramento were directed to push for passage of Pavley's bill and other legislation with the same aims. Antonovich and Knabe were the dissenting votes.