California Bill Banning Fracking, Restricting Production Dies in Committee

Fracking opponents suffered a defeat in California, where SB467, legislation that would have severely restricted energy production in the state, failed to pass a committee vote. Moderate Democrats on the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee blocked the bill from advancing, a sign that there is little appetite for aggressive anti-development actions.

Trades Vow to Fight Production Bans

Originally introduced in February, SB467 would have halted the use of hydraulic fracturing and other extraction methods by 2022. It was opposed by representatives from oil-producing regions of the state, including Central Valley, and members of the building trades, who saw it as a threat to their jobs and livelihoods. Scott Wetch, a lobbyist for pipefitters and plumbers, told a local reporter:

“The ink won’t be dry on that bill before I get my letter of opposition out. There might not be a lot of oil and gas jobs in the city and county of San Francisco, but they need to start taking a holistic view of the economy in California and what’s going on with working families who haven’t paid a utility bill in five months and are behind on their mortgage.”

Meanwhile, California’s oil and gas industry stressed that restricting energy production would make the state even more dependent on unreliable renewable energy. As Catherine Reheis-Boyd of the Western States Petroleum Association said:

“Dismantling our oil and natural gas industry right now means betting everything on alternative energy resources that we don’t have in place and a supporting infrastructure that’s far from being at the scale we need.”

Newsom Sees the Writing on the Wall

Governor Gavin Newsom, who had originally called for a fracking ban last September, had cooled on the proposal by the spring. Facing the prospect of a recall vote, the governor became more muted in his support for the ban, perhaps realizing the important role that energy production plays in California’s economy.

California is the seventh-largest producer of oil in the country. The oil and gas industry directly employs 152,000 people throughout the state, from drilling workers in Kern County to refinery staff in the Bay Area. This week’s vote demonstrates that across the aisle, lawmakers understand that a fracking ban would put these jobs at risk.

As State Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, one of the Democrats who voted against SB467 said:

“I don’t think we’re quite there yet, and this bill assumes that we are.”

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