A bill heading to California Governor Jerry Brown's desk for approval, originally slated to impose regulations on the hydraulic fracturing industry, has been so watered down with amendments it is "no longer recognizable," an L.A. Times editorial said on Thursday, echoing the sentiment of several environmental groups that have withdrawn their support.
Brown is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.
Many groups had opposed the bill from the beginning over fears that any fracking will do great harm to local communities and the environment.
“SB 4 tragically green-lights an extremely dangerous practice with terrible public health impacts near the homes and schools of California’s communities already most overburdened by pollution,” stated Madeline Stano, fellow at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and member of Californians Against Fracking.
"It started off as a dangerously weak bill that won't protect California or our environment from fracking," said Zack Malitz, a campaign manager at CREDO Action, a California-based progressive group that opposed the bill from the start. "It will only provide political cover to the industry and its allies, who will claim that fracking is safely regulated."
However, as the bill made its way from the state Assembly to the Senate, the bill grew even weaker, leaving the more moderate groups who offered support for the regulations to drop their backing, including Natural Resources Defense Council, California League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action and the Environmental Working Group.
"There are a bunch of really good things in that bill we wanted to see enacted," said Renee Sharp, the research director at Oakland-based Environmental Working Group. "But we're very, very uncomfortable with this particular bill as it is being signed."
Among those amendments was a change that will allow the state's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to waive requirements for environmental impact analyses of proposed drilling sites before approvals are granted.
Other language added to the bill in the Senate said that the state "shall allow" fracking to continue while regulations are being drafted up until 2015, an allowance that "could eliminate the governor's authority to issue a moratorium even if real dangers were found," the LA Times reports.
“This legislation does nothing to stop fracking or protect communities across the state from its harmful effects and last minute changes to the bill made it even worse,” said Adam Scow, California campaigns director at Food & Water Watch. “The threats to our state’s water, air, and climate are real and pressing and we don’t have time for half measures like SB 4. We need courageous leadership – it’s time for Governor Brown to act now to ban fracking in California.”
“This bill will not protect Californians from the enormous threats of fracking pollution,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fracking poses unacceptable risks to the air we breathe, the water we drink and our climate. We’ll keep working to end this inherently dangerous activity in our state.”