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California Senate rejects bill to halt fracking

By Rory Carroll

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The California state Senate on Thursday rejected for the second year in a row a bill that would have put a temporary stop to the controversial oil-producing practice of fracking in the state.

The measure failed with a handful of Democrats joining Republicans in defeating the bill.

Fracking is when water, sand and chemicals are injected beneath ground to break up rock and release oil and natural gas into wells. Advancements in fracking and other well stimulation techniques have led to an energy boom in the United States.

Environmentalists say the chemicals used in the process can pollute underground water supplies and cause other damage.

“This is the second time a house of the California state legislature has soundly rejected a moratorium on a routine practice that’s been deemed safe repeatedly,” said Dave Quast, California director of Energy in Depth, an oil industry-backed group.

He said fracking in California creates jobs, increases state revenue and lessens the state’s dependence on oil imports.

Fracking opponents said they were disappointed in the “shamelessly unprincipled” Democrats who sided with the oil industry by blocking the moratorium.

"The overwhelming majority of Californians who support a moratorium on fracking will not stop fighting fracking and the public health risks, earthquakes, and climate change linked to this toxic extraction process," said Zack Malitz of California-based progressive group Credo.

Opponents now hope that California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown will put a halt to the practice via executive order, although the odds of that happening are slim. Brown said as recently as this month that fracking is good for the state because it is better to produce oil in California than import it.

Fracking’s ability to help California produce more oil was thrown into question last week when the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) downgraded the amount of recoverable oil in the state’s Monterey Shale formation by 96 percent, citing production difficulties at initial wells.

In the absence of statewide action, the city of Beverly Hills and the county of Santa Cruz recently voted to ban fracking even though no fracking proposals were on the table in either place. Other areas of the state are considering taking similar stands against the practice.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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