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California Senate Committee Passes Fracking Disclosure Bill

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A California committee passed a bill requiring gas drilling companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Earlier this month, the California Senate Natural Resources Committee passed the bill which is scheduled to appear before the Environmental Quality Committee next week, reported the Los Angeles Times. Currently, there is no law in the state mandating chemical disclosure but other states have approved similar legislation requiring companies to disclose drilling sites, a list of chemicals and the amount of water used in the drilling process. The bill, AB 591, sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski will require companies to disclose whether they are drilling near active fault lines and “expose the issue of ‘tremendous water use flowing to the Central Valley that most Californians think is going to irrigate crops,’” said Pamela King Palitz, staff attorney at Environment California. The California bill requires companies list all chemicals used unlike other state’s legislation which provides a “disclosure exception” of chemicals deemed trade secrets. AB 951 will also create a friendly-user state Web site detailing drilling locations and chemical lists. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wieckowski’s legislative staff reported errors with FracFocus.org, the current site

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used to disclose drilling information. Staff members said the site does not disclose chemicals considered to be trade secrets and uses information from Material Safety Data Sheets which often contains inaccurate information. EarthJustice, an environmental law group, “estimates that 70 hydraulic fracturing accidents have occurred in recent years, the majority taking place in the Marcellus Shale,” which is the largest natural gas drilling area in the U.S. and is estimated to be one of the richest sources of natural gas on the planet. The area includes areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. Although there is no evidence linking natural gas drilling to contaminated drinking water, in May, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Chesapeake Energy Corp. $1.1 million for contaminating drinking water in Bradford County and causing a fire during natural gas drilling operations, reported Reuters. The eruption spewed forth thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals, which drained into a stream forcing seven families to evacuate their homes. The gas companies support the California bill, says Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western State Petroleum Assn., and industry officials are working closely with Wieckowski to draft legislation “both parties can support.”

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