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Saturday, Aug 24 2013 11:08 PM

Allow fracking, but also work to protect California's water

By The Bakersfield Californian

Three out of four Californians surveyed in "key legislative districts" said they fear hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique used to extract oil from hard-to-reach areas, such as the Monterey Shale, could pollute the state's ground water.

The polling data released last week by the Natural Resources Defense Council might have some meaning if popularity contests were used to set public policy. But we are talking about regulating an industry with the potential of creating thousands of jobs and bolstering the state's economy.

Lawmakers in targeted "key legislative districts" need to do more than consider how the political winds are blowing. They need to use their heads and backbones to cast their votes.

Next week, Senate Bill 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, will be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It already passed the Senate on a party-line vote, with Republicans opposed. It awaits an Assembly floor vote before Gov. Jerry Brown can sign it into law.

Pavley's bill establishes a permitting system; requires energy companies to identify chemicals used in the fracking process; monitors groundwater and air quality; and requires a study be commissioned on the environmental impacts of fracking.

Republicans oppose the bill's regulations and disclosure requirements, which the industry calls "trade secrets." Industry representatives concede "reasonable" regulations would be acceptable. Environmentalists want an outright ban or moratorium, complaining the bill has been watered down too much.

Pavley's bill is a good starting point. Additional rules are being drafted by the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources. Allow fracking, but also protect California's water.

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