Framing Fracking

ban fracking now

Photo: Brian Connolly

We are framing the California fracking debate incorrectly. We are allowing it to be referred to as a choice between a moratorium or regulation. But that is not what we have actually been offered. Regulation is not on the table.

California had three bills in the legislature that called for a moratorium on fracking until safety could be assured. All three bills have died.

Instead, we now have a bill by State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Calabasas) that purports to regulate fracking. It is being touted as the best alternative to a moratorium and the most that could get past Gov. Jerry Brown.

The California Democratic Party has called for a moratorium, but many of our Democratic legislators have not been convinced. By framing the debate incorrectly, we are missing an opportunity to convince them.

To regulate is to control, to direct, to slow down. Sen. Pavley’s SB 4 does none of that.

SB 4 requires some disclosure. Not full disclosure. Partial disclosure.

SB 4 creates a permit process. But as long as there is disclosure, there is no authority to turn down a permit.

Under SB 4 an oil company could submit an application that comes right out and says they will poison our water. It could say they will cause earthquakes. It could say they’ll spill oil and carcinogens. And our “regulators” would have no choice but to grant them a permit. After all, the disclosure requirements would have been met.

And SB 4 certainly does not require that kind of disclosure. We will get minimal information, with the most important details protected by SB 4 as “trade secrets.”

SB 4 is not a regulation bill. It is a partial disclosure bill.

Framing a debate is important. We have made the mistake of allowing those opposed to a moratorium to frame this one. We have to take it back. We have to make legislators calling for regulation realize they aren’t getting that with SB 4.

richard mathews Don’t give SB 4 more credit than it deserves by calling it a regulation bill or saying that we are being offered regulation as an alternative to a moratorium. When you hear others calling it regulation, clearly correct them. Don’t let them get away with that.

Partial disclosure without any regulation is far from sufficient.

Sign here to support a moratorium on fracking.

Richard Mathews

Richard M. Mathews is a Regional Vice Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and President of the North Valley Democratic Club.  He is a member of the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party serving on CDP’s Legislation Committee.  Richard has been honored as a 2011 LACDP Democrat of the Year and a 2008 Volunteer of the Year for the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley.  He is the Senior System Architect for Radian Memory Systems in Calabasas, CA, where he designs computer components that are proudly built in the USA.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

60 fractivists rally and deliver a petition with almost 19,000 signatures to CA State Senator Fran Pavley asking her to drop her weak fracking regulatory bill and fight for a ban instead. Speeches by petition organizer Lauren Steiner, Food and Water Watch’s Brenna Norton, Credo Action’s Zack Malitz, and Ballona Wetlands Institute’s Marcia Hanscom reading a statement by San Diego Area opposing SB4. Then five constituents and members of the media deliver signatures to Pavley’s district deputy who cannot state definitively whether Pavley would support a ban on fracking even if the Governor would sign one.


  1. Lauren Steiner says

    Yes, also it should be pointed out that in the bill, permits can be denied if the drilling poses an “unreasonable risk.” We already know fracking causes groundwater contamination, earthquakes and asthma from the hundreds of daily truck trips. Are those known risks considered reasonable? If not, what risks would fracking have to pose before it was considered unreasonable. This bill is a joke.

  2. Jon K. Williams says

    Here’s how it has to be framed: it’s us or the oil industry. Period. End of story. If you choose to take the oil companies’ campaign contributions and vote to allow them to endanger our precious water supply, we will primary you and, if we don’t manage to get true progressives elected this time around, live with the consequences until next time.

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