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California Lawmakers Offer Plans to Halt Fracking

March 22 (Bloomberg) -- California lawmakers introduced legislation to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and natural gas until the state deals with public-health and environmental concerns.

Three measures, offered in the state Assembly this week, are the first to arrive this year that would halt fracking and follow regulations proposed in December by the state Conservation Department. California’s Monterey Shale formation contains an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

“It shocks me that we pride ourselves on being a national leader on environmental protection, yet we have allowed this activity to occur largely unregulated,” Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a Santa Monica Democrat, said in a statement. His bill would halt fracking until oversight rules are put in place.

Fracking, a drilling technique that forces millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep underground into rock formations trapping oil and gas, has come under fire from environmentalists as a threat to wells and reservoirs. California -- the fourth-largest oil-producing state -- is working on industry-backed standards to allow it. New York and New Jersey have banned fracking until rules are set to protect public health, according to a state Senate report last month.

Los Angeles-area Assembly members Adrin Nazarian, of East San Fernando Valley, and Holly Mitchell of Culver City, offered legislation that would ban fracking and require state regulators to determine by Jan. 1, 2019, whether and under what conditions fracking can be permitted.

About 100,000 people in California worked in oil and gas production in 2009, generating about $5.8 billion in revenue from excise and income taxes, according to the Senate report. Developing the Monterey Shale may mean 2.8 million more jobs and $24.6 billion in state and local revenue by 2020, according to a report from the University of Southern California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alison Vekshin in San Francisco at avekshin@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net.

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