At this weekend's California Democratic Party executive board meeting, a resolution dealing with fracking - hydraulic fracturing of rock to release natural gas - is creating controversy. The original resolution called for a moratorium on fracking in the state until such time as climate change and regulatory issues can be resolved. Seems reasonable, eh?
After all, the state Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Regulations - pronounced "Dogger" - literally doesn't know how much fracking is going on in the state. Venoco is drooling over the billion dollar Monterey Shale, running under some of the most productive farmland in the world; grape growers, vintners, and strawberry farmers are less enthused. Whatever the merits of fracking up Pennsylvania and New York may be, it's hard to see the upside of a water-intensive, earthquake-inducing process in a water-scarce, earthquake-prone state. And climate hawks are deeply concerned because we don't know the quantity of natural gas methane leaks (natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas). Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management is holding its first Monterey Shale lease auction December 12.
But the building trades are bothered by anything that may threaten jobs. So they've been calling everyone in the Democratic Party hierarchy demanding that the moratorium language be pulled. At a closed door session yesterday, a handful of people rewrote the resolution to call for DOGGR to regulate fracking equal to or better than federal regulations now, then - if DOGGR doesn't so act - seek a moratorium on fracking no earlier than the end of 2013.
Or, as I put it, waiting for the insurance company's arson investigator to write its report before considering whether to put out the fire.
I attended a DOGGR-and-pony-show hearing last May to ask that the state track methane emissions for climate purposes. I was ignored. By an interesting coincidence, every person who specified a desired regulation was asked to submit comments in writing, but every person who opposed fracking entirely was simply thanked with a pained smile and glazed eyes. I have no hope whatsoever that DOGGR regulations will be sufficient.
The labor-heavy resolutions committee approved this watered down resolution on a voice vote. A couple of people present told me that they didn't vote yes. The chairperson of the Environmental Caucus spoke in favor of the weakened resolution; I spoke against it (I'm the secretary of the same Environmental Caucus).
As of this writing, I'm attempting to send the watered down resolution back to the resolutions committee so that a better resolution can be crafted on more than two-hours-behind-closed-doors. But I'm not optimistic. Thus, the California Democratic Party: all fracked up?
5:54 PM PT: Thanks to hard work by thereisnospoon among others, the watered down resolution was not approved, but instead sent back to the resolutions committee.