The California Senate declined to pass SB 1132, a bill that would have imposed a statewide ban on energy production using hydraulic fracturing methods. The vote marked the second time in two years California’s Democratic-controlled state legislature rejected a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
Fracking Shores Up Economy
Senate opponents of the ban noted the economic benefits fracking provides. In a state suffering nearly 8 percent unemployment and some of the highest electricity prices in the nation, oil and natural gas production offers promise of economic recovery in the state.
David Quast, California director of the pro-energy group Energy in Depth, in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources said the petroleum industry supports approximately 95,000 direct jobs and more than a quarter of a million indirect jobs in California. Quast said advances in fracking technology and new oil discoveries in the Golden State promise many additional jobs in years to come.
Quast cited a California State University–¬Fresno study reporting the development of the Monterey Shale formation could lead to as many as 195,000 new jobs in the San Joaquin Valley and boost personal income there by $22 billion by the year 2030. Expanding energy production could be the beginning of an economic renaissance in a region suffering from crippling, double-digit unemployment, he said.
Environmental Questions Answered
Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research, says there are few if any questions regarding asserted environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing. Simmons noted EPA officials have repeatedly testified under oath that they have never found a single instance of the hydraulic fracturing process causing water pollution.
“The California Senate did what they should have done and rejected a ban on hydraulic fracturing,” said Simmons. “They realized there were no environmental benefits to the proposed ban and only economic downsides.”
“Bans on hydraulic fracturing are not really about hydraulic fracturing, but these bans are an attack on affordable, reliable energy,” Simmons added. “More than a million wells have been hydraulically fractured without contaminating any groundwater. This means the opposition to hydraulic fracturing isn’t about environmental concerns, it’s about limiting Americans’ access to abundant energy sources.”
Struggling Economy Plays Role
Seton Motley, president of the public policy organization Less Government, said California’s economic troubles prevented Democratic legislators from sacrificing future job growth and wealth creation to appease environmental extremists.
“If this were the sixth year of a booming economy, the state legislature might get away with a moratorium on fracking. However, there are just too many economic benefits flowing from hydraulic fracturing, and that’s why moderate Democrats are voting against moratoriums,” said Motley.
Fracking Funds Government Programs
Energy economist H. Sterling Burnett said the California legislature’s openness to fracking is interesting because environmental activists have long held powerful influence over state legislators.
“The one big thing in fracking’s favor is California has had a long experience with oil and gas drilling. Also, the state has had a very bad economy, so this is a great source of revenue. Fortunately the legislators are seeing the bigger picture,” said Burnett.
“What this all comes down to is money. The California legislature wants to fund so many government programs, but it doesn’t have the money to pay for everything. Some of the legislators have come to realize that fracking can help them with some of their pet programs,” Burnett explained.
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.