June 9, 2012
As a public policy, denial requires one prerequisite to take root: lack of information. So it’s proper to ask whose interests the California Senate was protecting last month when it killed a measure requiring oil drillers to give public notice before fracking.
Fracking — “hydraulic fracturing,” technically speaking — involves drilling a pipe horizontally into an underground oil- or natural gas-bearing formation and pumping a slurry into the formation at high pressure to liberate the hydrocarbons trapped within. It’s become increasingly popular as a way to tap oil and gas reserves that were once considered too costly to extract.
Fracking has a lot of friends these days. There’s the oil and natural gas industry, which spends more than $4 million a year lobbying in Sacramento. And there’s Halliburton Co., which pioneered the technique in the 1940s and remains a huge player in the field. The company’s former CEO, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, got Congress in 2005 to exempt fracking from regulation under the Clean Drinking Water Act, and it employs one of the best-connected lobbying firms in the state.