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Lawmakers consider moratorium on oil fracking in San Joaquin Valley
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SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Efforts to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in California receive their first public hearing Monday as opponents try to ensure that the oil drilling technique does not endanger public health.

Supporters and opponents packed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee hearing, where testimony was expected in the afternoon on three bills that would prohibit fracking temporarily. The drilling technique involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into deep rock formations to release oil or natural gas.

Fracking has drawn scrutiny in other states and has just recently become an issue of high interest in California. Oil companies are looking to expand production from the Monterey Shale formation, which stretches from Kern County north through the San Joaquin Valley. It is estimated to be one of the country's largest shale oil formations.

All three Assembly bills up for consideration are carried by Los Angeles-area Democrats.

AB1301 from Assemblyman Richard Bloom, of Santa Monica, would stop fracking until further legislation is enacted outlining how it can occur.

Two similar bills, AB1323 and AB649, call for creating an advisory committee to review health, environmental, economic and other effects. They also would recommend regulatory changes.

The bills from Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, of Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, of Sherman Oaks, would require state officials to decide by January 2019 if fracking can be performed safely in California.

California was the third-largest oil producing state last year, behind Texas and North Dakota, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

State environmental regulators are crafting new rules for fracking, which currently is subject to the same rules as other drilling techniques.

The California Department of Conservation released draft regulations in December, and agency officials say they hope to adopt final rules next year.