We are framing the California fracking debate incorrectly. We are allowing it to be referred to as a choice between a moratorium or regulation. But that is not what we have actually been offered. Regulation is not on the table.
California had three bills in the legislature that called for a moratorium on fracking until safety could be assured. All three bills have died.
Instead we now have a bill by State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Calabasas) that purports to regulate fracking. It is being touted as the best alternative to a moratorium and the most that could get past Gov. Jerry Brown.
The California Democratic Party has called for a moratorium, but many of our Democratic legislators have not been convinced. By framing the debate incorrectly, we are missing an opportunity to convince them.
To regulate is to control, to direct, to slow down. Sen. Pavley's SB 4 does none of that.
SB 4 requires some disclosure. Not full disclosure. Partial disclosure.
SB 4 creates a permit process. But as long as there is disclosure, there is no authority to turn down a permit.
Under SB 4 an oil company could submit an application that comes right out and says they will poison our water. It could say they will cause earthquakes. It could say they'll spill oil and carcinogens. And our "regulators" would have no choice but to grant them a permit. After all, the disclosure requirements would have been met.
And SB 4 certainly does not require that kind of disclosure. We will get minimal information, with the most important details protected by SB 4 as "trade secrets."
SB 4 is not a regulation bill. It is a partial disclosure bill.
Framing a debate is important. We have made the mistake of allowing those opposed to a moratorium to frame this one. We have to take it back. We have to make legislators calling for regulation realize they aren't getting that with SB 4.
Don't give SB 4 more credit than it deserves by calling it a regulation bill or saying that we are being offered regulation as an alternative to a moratorium. When you hear others calling it regulation, clearly correct them. Don't let them get away with that.
Partial disclosure without any regulation is far from sufficient.