Credit: Courtesy

An attempt to ban fracking and other extreme oil-extraction techniques in California failed in committee on April 13. Senate Bill 467, which would have introduced a 2,500-foot buffer zone around schools, playgrounds, and homes, lost by one vote in the Senate Natural Resource Committee when State Sen. Bob Hertzberg abstained from the vote, according to advocacy organization Food & Water Watch. Sen. Ben Hueso of San Diego also abstained.

The bill had been closely watched in Santa Barbara County, as the extreme techniques included the cyclic-steam-injection method used to break loose the thick crude held in the Monterey shale many thousands of feet belowground. As the price per barrel of oil rises above $60, where it has been hovering recently in the United States, techniques like steam injection become profitable again.

Santa Barbara State Senator Monique Limón, who helped introduce the bill in February, saw the failure as one of a glass half-full. She expressed disappointment the bill was rejected but added, “[W]e’re inspired by the coalition behind this critical climate and public health measure. Frontline communities of color stood up for their families and against drilling practices that severely harm people’s health, particularly children’s health.”

Hertzberg, who represents the San Fernando Valley, called himself a lifelong environmental advocate, but echoed industry talking points in saying, “It simply makes no sense to replace oil produced in California — which has the strictest environmental standards in the world — for oil extracted from places where regulation is lax or non-existent, while putting thousands of our hard-working neighbors out of work in the process.”

The bill was offered for reconsideration — to give author State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco a chance to amend it — which passed the Natural Resources and Water Committee. Reconsideration allows the conversation to continue regarding the ban and the buffer zone, and also allows the bill to be introduced again in the next legislative session.

Limón said that the issue wasn’t going away: “We’ll continue to fight for aggressive climate action, against harmful drilling, and for the health of our communities.”

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