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Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, September 20 signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4 - a controversial fracking bill that the head of the oil industry lobby admitted will clear the path to expanding the environmentally destructive oil extraction process in California.

“While SB 4’s requirements went significantly farther than the petroleum industry felt was necessary, we now have an environmental platform on which California can look toward the opportunity to responsibly develop the enormous potential energy resource contained in the Monterey Shale formation,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA).

Reheis-Boyd, who previously feigned disappointment with the bill even after it had been gutted with last minute pro-oil industry amendments, gushed, “With the signing of Senate Bill 4, California has the toughest regulations of hydraulic fracturing and other energy production technologies in the country.”

“There remains a great deal of work to clarify and implement the requirements of SB 4. WSPA and our members stand ready to work with the Administration, Department of Conservation and other stakeholders to ensure SB 4 is implemented effectively and fairly,” she concluded.

All mainstream media accounts of the Pavley legislation that I have seen failed to mention the alarming fact that Reheis-Boyd, in one of the biggest environmental scandals in California over the past decade, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” on the Southern California coast. The oil industry superstar also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

Senator Fran Pavley and Governor Jerry Brown claim the legislation "regulates" hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), acidizing, and other oil extraction techniques, while opponents, including over 100 environmental, consumer and community groups in the coalition Californians Against Fracking, say the bill actually creates a clear path to expanded fracking in California.

Strangely enough, Reheis-Boyd essentially agreed with the opponents' assessment that the bill will actually result in expanded oil drilling in the Monterey Shale Foundation.

"SB 4 tragically green-lights an extremely dangerous practice with terrible public health impacts near the homes and schools of California’s communities already most overburdened by pollution,” said Madeline Stano, Luke Cole Memorial Fellow at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid – typically water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to kill fish and cause cancer in humans– are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well, according to Food and Water Watch. (

Senator Pavley, Governor Brown tout "benefits" of Senate Bill 4  

Senator Pavley praised Brown's signing of SB 4, describing it as an "important law."

“I am pleased that Governor Brown is committed to rigorously implementing this important law,” Senator Pavley said. “I look forward to working with the governor and Natural Resources Secretary Laird to ensure that we meet the expectations of all Californians of transparency and rigorous oversight when the law kicks in on January 1, 2014.”

Pavley added, "Starting January 1, 2014, oil companies will not be allowed to frack or acidize in California unless they test the groundwater, notify neighbors and list each and every chemical on the Internet. This is a first step toward greater transparency, accountability and protection of the public and the environment. Now we need immediate, robust enforcement and widespread public involvement to ensure the law is upheld to its fullest."

Likewise, Governor Brown in his signing statement claimed Senate Bill 4 “establishes strong environmental protections and transparency for hydraulic fracking and other well stimulation operations.”

“I am also directing the Department of Conservation, when implementing the bill, to develop and efficient permitting program for well stimulation activities that groups permits together based on factors such as known geological conditions and environmental impacts, while providing for more particularized review in other situations when necessary,” he stated.

Fracking will exact big toll on fish, people and the environment

Fracking opponents were disappointed, though not surprised by the passage of Senate Bill 4, considering the enormous power of the oil industry in California.

Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said Brown's signing of Pavley's bill shows how "we are led by representatives who believe oil is more important than water for the people."

"There is such a high price to pay for the last drops of oil - then what? Even this extreme mining for oil will come to an end!" Sisk noted.

Activist Lauren Steiner, who led a petition campaign that got 20,000 signatures urging Pavley to drop her bill and fight for a ban instead, summed up the essence of Senate Bill 4 in her article, "California's Fracking Regulatory Bill: Less Than Zero," ( Rather than actually making fracking safer, "the flawed bill sets up a process for notification, disclosure, monitoring and permitting and simply calls for future regulations by other agencies and a scientific study," she said.

"Telling someone when you're going to frack, where you're going to frack and what chemicals you will use, is like a murderer telling you he's going to shoot you on your front porch at noon tomorrow using an AK-47. At the end of the day, you're still dead," Steiner said.

After the passage of the bill, Steiner noted, "When I wrote the article I thought that the passage of the bill would be worse than having no regulations because it would give legislators political cover not to pass a moratorium. But now that these poison pill amendments have been added, it appears that the state regulators are prohibited from imposing a moratorium and that a CEQA review is optional for the next 15 months. Therefore, this bill ended up being worse than I thought. I just wish the environmental organizations, especially the ones that favored a ban over regulations, would have opposed the bill more actively."

The evidence of the enormous threat that fracking poses to fish, water, air and the environment continues to pile up. Oil companies have used 12 dangerous “air toxic” chemicals more than 300 times in the Los Angeles Basin in recent months, according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity that is drawing concerned reactions from public health advocates and an L.A. city councilmembers. Air toxics are chemicals considered among the most dangerous air pollutants because they can cause illness and death. (

A joint peer-reviewed study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released on August 28 also revealed that hydraulic fracturing fluids were the likely cause of the widespread death or distress of aquatic species in Kentucky's Acorn Fork, including endangered blackside dace, after spilling from nearby natural gas well sites. (

Finally, not only does fracking threaten the environment, but the practice has significant social costs, as revealed in a new report from Food and Water Watch. This study is the first detailed, long-term analysis of the social costs of fracking borne by rural Pennsylvania communities:  

Fracking in the larger context of corporate greenwashing

The passage of Pavley's green light for fracking bill occurs in the larger context of the oil industry's enormous influence on California environmental processes. Brown, Laird and Pavley were all strong supporters of the oil lobbyist-overseen Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create questionable "marine protected areas" in Southern California, so it is no surprise that they will now be helping to implement the fracking of California – or as Reheis-Boyd claims, “responsibly” developing the “enormous potential energy resource contained in the Monterey Shale formation.”

These so-called “Yosemites of the Sea” and “underwater parks” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, military testing, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. The alleged “marine protected areas” are good for the oil industry and ocean industrialists – and bad for fishermen, tribal gatherers, the environment and the people of California.

State officials and representatives of corporate "environmental" NGOs embraced the leadership of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives who served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create “marine protected areas” that fail to actually protect the ocean. By backing her leadership as a "marine guardian," they helped to increase the influence of the Western States Petroleum Association, the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento.

Two of the groups who were among the strongest supporters of the MLPA Initiative - NRDC and the League of Conservation Voters - also strongly backed Pavley's green light to fracking bill until the very last minute when amendments they suggested weren't included in the bill's final draft. They, along with Clean Water Action and the Environmental Working Group, withdrew their support on September 11 after the oil industry gutted the already very weak bill. (

Now Brown, Laird and Pavley, true to form, will preside over expanded fracking in Cailifornia that will result in tremendous damage to groundwater supplies, rivers and imperiled fish populations, and human health.

Brown, Laird and Pavley also support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The construction of the tunnels will result in the export of massive quantities of northern California water to corporate agribusiness interests irrigating drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The construction of the tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath river.

For more information about the hijacking of "marine protection" in California by the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), go to: (

Background: Big Oil dominates California politics  

The oil industry, now the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, exceeds corporate agribusiness, the computer and software industry, the film and television industry, the aerospace industry and other major corporate players in California politics in the power that it wields.

The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators.Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009. (

The association spent the most of any organization in first six months of 2013, $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials, according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State.

When the oil industry wields this much power - and an oil industry lobbyist oversaw the process that was supposed to "protect" the ocean - it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that California's ocean waters, as well as farmland, are now being "fracked." Both the state and federal regulators have completely failed in their duty to protect our ocean, bays, rivers and Delta.

For more information about the MLPA Initiative, go to:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Shout it from the rooftops! (6+ / 0-)

    No Fracking in California!

    Put another way: history shows that humankind can survive without petroleum fuels, but not without water, and fracking imperils the water supply.

    The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

    by magnetics on Sun Sep 22, 2013 at 11:47:48 PM PDT

  •  A tricky one (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, S F Hippie

    Was fracking not happening already without any specific regulation?

    Public disclosure of the chemicals is a pretty big deal. But what's the verification regimen, including after drilling starts? What's the standard to meet before drilling starts, i.e. a specified degree of certainty that an accident won't contaminate an aquifer? That certainty had better be total. And if total certainty isn't possible, then too bad, don't drill!

    In any case, the methane released during fracking may moot any downstream CO2 release reduction relative to coal. But that's more of an issue for things like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, not necessarily the permitting conditions for drilling. Unless an outright ban is politically achievable, of course...

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Sun Sep 22, 2013 at 11:50:39 PM PDT

    •  I would agree that knowing which poisons (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jbob, S F Hippie

      pollute our groundwater is important.

      More important is that fracking cease/be stopped so the former isn't necessary.

      I can't stand Brown, and this kind of thing is one of the reasons why.

      202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

      by cany on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 05:21:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, according to (0+ / 0-)

      this article

      it has been underway in California for 30 years already (along with historically high levels of petroleum extraction).

      Not really sure how to stop it, but I suspect that railing against regulations will be more detrimental than helpful in that respect.

  •  Second paragraph (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You identify Reheis-Boyd as president of the "Western States Association." Omission of the word "Petroleum" makes it sound a lot less nefarious.

    Thanks for the work you do!

    "The NRA says 'guns don't kill people, people do.' But I think that the gun helps." -- Eddie Izzard

    by babaloo on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 12:29:49 AM PDT

  •  Because there is a lot of fracking where I live (0+ / 0-)

    I've started reading about it.

    I wish you'd linked to sources showing,  

    tremendous damage to groundwater supplies, rivers and imperiled fish populations, and human health
    So far I've been reading Wiki as an independent fact based source. It sounds as if there has been a very small amount of well contamination, like tiny amounts. And that all well drilling in the US is now fracked.

    If oil development is so dangerous shouldn't it be done where it is most used? Not that I'm convinced it is mind you. What comes out of the tailpipe is a thousand times worse than what goes into the fuel tank.

    Also CA has one of the most reactionary legislatures I've heard of, would they allow something that is environmentally harmful?

    Quoting the CBD doesn't do much for me, I always assume the opposite of whatever they say. Convicted of lying, upheld on appeal.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 04:04:57 AM PDT

    •  Here we go again. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jbob, S F Hippie, 3rock

      The CA legislature is "reactionary"? Since when? They aren't now and never have been very environmentally inclined, which should seem to suit you just fine.

      And you should be smart enough to realize that no one bucks the oil industry. They are solidly installed in the political process, just as is the case nationally. No oil = no political office in this country.

      And, BTW, if you don't like liars, how in the world could you support anything at all? CBD gets your ire, but the liars on lead don't?

      202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

      by cany on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 05:31:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  California Legislature is bad as they get (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Whatithink, old wobbly

        There is nothing "progressive" or "liberal" about the California Legislature, now controlled by corporate Democrats, when it comes to fish, water and the environment.

        Twenty years ago the Legislature was much better - before it was taken over by backers of the oil industry, corporate agribusiness and the 1 percent. What "environmental" legislation emerges from the Legislature is generally corporate greenwashing scams backed by NRDC and the League of Conservation voters, such as the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative and the water policy/water bond package designed to the clear the path to the construction of the tunnels. There are some good legislators, but they are constantly out voted by the bad ones.

        The Senate President Pro Tem and Speaker of the Assembly make sure that most meaningful legislation, such a bill requiring a cost-benefit analysis of the peripheral tunnels, never gets to the Assembly or Senate Floor. Grassroots environmental leaders, Indian tribal leaders and fishermen have now to rely on litigation and direct action to get anything done, since almost everything that emerges from the Legislature and the Brown regime is tainted with the sickening scent of corporate money.

        For all practical purposes, the Western States Petroleum Association owns the Governor's Office and the Legislature.

      •  CA does wildlife management by ballot (0+ / 0-)

        They've stopped lots of basic wildlife management on land. Not sure about water.

        We sure buck the oil industry here in CO. It's how Salazar made his name. We're not anti oil but they have to drill how we say and leave sensitive calving areas alone.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 05:14:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You still after the mountain lions? Sheesh! (0+ / 0-)

          202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

          by cany on Thu Sep 26, 2013 at 04:22:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  wiki doesn't do much for me (0+ / 0-)

      "independent fact based source" = not always the case

    •  Note the reference to peer reviewed study (0+ / 0-)

      If CBD doesn't do it for you, does a peer reviewed study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey do it for your? I just added a brief description and link to that study in the article. If I wanted to, I could have added other links to studies documenting the harm to fish, people and water supplies due to fracking, but then an already too-long article would be even longer. A simple Google search will reveal lots of studies and reports documenting how bad fracking is. We got to stop studying it and take action to ban or put a moratorium on it NOW!

  •  The Old Liberals of Ca. (0+ / 0-)

                                 who don't know which way is up, which way is down or a/round and how things shake. Can't think outside the box anymore.
        Jerry Brown. The technology to build FREEWAY overpasses is pretty advanced, add some Japanese expertise, we'd be sailing along, {IF}; Could you build an aqueduct & some reservoirs, were the ? Oh, no we're building tunnels underground where the first big earthquake is going to make sinkholes, the likes of which have never been seen. Bullet train, "What train, who me?" "Can't you SEE, I've got more tinker toy projects goin on right now that my heads a spinnin!"
        If Jerry had done the European Solar Green Energy we'd be "What's begins in Ca. travels the nation, the world" leading. Instead we're a frackin'
                                     H O N E S T L Y
        P.S. Not an endorsement of making dams higher. Most should be dismantled. I'm just saying a small medium type aqueduct, with a bunch of reservoirs, to be filled up a an even pace, makes more sense to me. Could help the migrating birds also.
        But hay, if Jerry wants his legacy somewhere in time to be "Built the BIGGEST BOONDOGGLE in ALL Ca. history." Us old timer by wagon descendants have heard some tales before. What's new?

    March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

    by 3rock on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 08:43:14 AM PDT

  •  no problem... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3rock in Colorado ..and downstream S. Platte sure a number of fracking sites were "disturbed"...but we won't have another flood thing like this fer a couple of hundred years.. oh sure if you were to googly or bingy Fracking effect on cows ... you might get a little info...

    and of course CA has a lot of extra water for the forcing water and "additives" underground... as for the inevitable "greasing fault lines" in CA? What could possibly go wrong?

    ashes..ashes..we all fall down..

  •  I Knew in 1976 that Governor Moonbeam was a (0+ / 0-)

    conservative with the affect of a granola liberal.

    6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

    by LunkHead on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 11:08:34 AM PDT

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