08/20/2013 11:58 am ET Updated Oct 21, 2013

Fracking Hits Home

I'm used to writing about the many issues percolating in Washington, D.C. and across the country. But, this time it's different, because the fracking boom has come to my home state, California.

Fracking has been a hot topic in other parts of the country. In the absence of state or federal laws, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the c3 affiliate of the NRDC Action Fund, has been leading community-level work in a number of states and now California. And while the fight for a moratorium in the state continues, immediate protections are urgently needed, as companies are already fracking in California communities and looking to expand across the Monterey oil shale formation, which spans much of the state.

I'm proud to live in a state that takes public health and environmental protections seriously and in many cases, leads the country. Now California has the opportunity to lead again.

Currently, a legislative proposal that includes statewide fracking protections, as laid out in Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), is pending before the California State Assembly. It addresses several of the most urgent threats that fracking poses to public health and the environment, providing a solid foundation to build upon.

SB 4 has already passed the California Senate and now sits in the California State Assembly awaiting a hearing before the appropriations committee and then a floor vote. If enacted the legislation will:

• Require notification of fracking and other well stimulation activities to the state and to neighboring property owners and tenants;
• Require the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking and other well stimulation activities;
• Create a new permitting process for fracking and other well stimulation activities; Require an independent scientific study to evaluate the risks and potential hazards that fracking and other well stimulation treatments pose to natural resources as well as public, occupational, and environmental health and safety;
• Require operators to conduct baseline water testing and have a groundwater monitoring plan and wastewater disposal plan in place before fracking or well stimulation activities may commence;
• Require operators to identify any seismic faults within or near the fracture zone of the fracking or well stimulation activity;
• Require state agencies to enter into agreements clearly delineating respective authority, responsibility, and notification and reporting requirements associated with fracking and other well stimulation activities; and
• Require the state oil and gas agency, to adopt fracking regulations that include these requirements and more on or before January 1, 2015.

To help solidify support for SB 4 the NRDC Action Fund is launching an online advertising campaign today in California. The digital campaign includes banner ads targeted in the following publications: Capitol Weekly, Capitol Morning Report, Sacramento Bee, Rough and Tumble, Cal Buzz and Rear Clear Politics. The ads will run from August 19 through September 15. The banner ads show a home with a gas rig in its backyard and link to an action page for Californians to email the State Assembly to ask for their support of SB 4. Text includes:


My community--my right to know
Say YES to SB 4 to stop out-of control fracking in our backyards.

Act now to protect our backyards
California is FAILING to protect people from fracking.
Tell your assembly member to vote yes on SB 4.

STOP out-of-control fracking
Fracking is happening in California now.
Together we can protect our communities.
Urge your assembly member to vote YES on SB 4.

The provisions in SB 4 are urgently needed to start protecting families and communities from fracking that is already happening in California. The oil fracking boom is presenting new challenges to out-of-date state oil and gas regulations. Californians are already beginning to face impacts to our water, air, and infrastructure. We need our legislators to stand up and support SB 4 to better inform and protect us and our children. And while we urge them to do the right thing, we are also calling on Governor Brown to impose a moratorium on fracking so that we can fully evaluate the risks associated with this heavy industrial activity.

I also know I am not alone in wanting better fracking laws in California. A June poll by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California found that more than seven in 10 voters say they want more heavily regulated or banned outright. In addition, recent public opinion research in California by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows a majority of Californians support implementing stronger fracking protections. According to the PPIC polling data, "As state legislators debate stricter regulations on fracking--already under way in California--51 percent oppose increased use of the drilling method used to extract oil and natural gas (35% favor it, 14% don't know)." When asked whether they favor or oppose stricter regulation of fracking, 50 percent say they are in favor. Among those who favor increased use of fracking, 62 percent also favor stricter regulation.

If you live in the Golden State, will you join me in asking our elected officials to support SB 4 and a path to better protect our families? Join me by signing this letter.