On Tuesday, April 25, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill that would place an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing for the next decade. More than that, the bill — Oregon House Bill 2711 — would make it illegal to advance any rule making efforts regarding fracking. If turned into law, the bill would put a complete halt to the advancement of any fracking project in the state and might, as Oregon conservatives claim, any type of extraction in the state.
Pushing the ‘Pause’ Button
HB 2711 was introduced by Ken Helm, the Democratic Representative from Beaverton (a suburb of Portland). According to The Oregonian, Helm’s bill is a radical response to a bill he proposed last session that would have tightened regulations on hydraulic fracturing. That bill was soundly defeated, so Helm responded by proposing an outright ban.
Helm maintains that his bill is simply “proposing pushing a pause button on this type of exploration in the state.”
Oregon Isn’t a Fracking State, and It Likely Won’t Be
In recent years, the US Geological survey has reported that parts of Western Oregon may be home to some coalbed methane reserves. In 2005, five exploratory drills came up empty in the region. They were subsequently plugged with cement.
At the moment, there are no active fracking projects in the state, and there are zero plans to explore the topic.
In spite of what should have been a legislative victory for fracking proponents, protestors still lined up outside the annual shareholders meeting of Portland General Electric on Wednesday to denounce PGE for even importing natural gas to meet the state’s energy needs.
The Bill Is Effectively Meaningless
At the moment, HB 2711 is more a philosophical gesture than anything else. It still needs to make its way through the Oregon State Senate before it can be ratified. When it finds its way to the Senate, it can expect some push back from Republicans who claim that the bill is ignoring a potentially huge source of income for the state, which currently imports an incredible amount of natural gas each year. Given the vitriol surrounding fracking in the state, though, it’s unlikely that even Senate Republicans will be able to do much about it. It’s not likely that the practice will gain a foothold at any point in the future, which just might be good news for the vast amounts of shale underneath the states that supply Oregonian’s energy needs.