Assembly Bill 2420 Proposes Local Control of Well Stimulation in California

AB 2420, Fracking Local Control

Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian

On February 21, 2014, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian introduced Assembly Bill 2420, which proposed a new section of the Public Resources Code regarding well stimulation treatments, including hydraulic fracturing (sometimes referred to as "fracing" or "fracking").

Well stimulation has been used in California for over 60 years. Recently, however, well stimulation and "fracking" in particular have become the subject of controversy and legislative attention. In 2013, Senate Bill 4 was enacted, which rejected a moratorium on well stimulation in favor of conferring broad permitting authority to the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources ("DOGGR") to regulate oil and gas wells in the state.

AB 2420 was proposed as a response to a growing local government trend to ban well stimulation and concerns that such bans may run afoul of conflicting state laws. AB 2420 would authorize local government to adopt and enforce a local ordinance prohibiting well stimulation treatments. Specifically, the text of proposed section 3162 states: "Notwithstanding any provision of this article, a city or county may adopt and enforce a local ordinance prohibiting well stimulation treatments." AB 2420 would avoid preemption issues that may arise where a local government or county's law enters into a field that has been fully occupied by state law.

Recently Carson, California became the first city in the state to place a moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling, not just well stimulation treatments. Other cities, including Los Angeles, are working to enact ordinances to ban well stimulation treatments. A similar ordinance is already in effect in Santa Cruz. It remains to be seen what legal challenges cities such as Carson may face on general drilling moratoriums, and what effect AB 2420 will have on well stimulation throughout the state.

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