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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 17th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 41 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 41

Political Watch 12/19/13

• The California Department of Conservation gave notice on Dec. 11 of an interim rulemaking package to regulate oil and gas well stimulation, or hydraulic fracturing. The package is made up of emergency regulations that were mandated by Senate Bill 4, which was passed earlier this year to tighten fracking regulations. The short-term rules will go to the Office of Administrative Law on Dec. 19 to ensure the rules are in place by Jan. 1. Proposed regulations scheduled to go into effect in 2015 are currently in the public comment process. “We expect significant public interest and significant changes to those regulations. The legislation also requires that interim regulations be in place until the final rules are ready,” the department’s director, Mark Nechodom, said in a press release. He added that the emergency regulations will provide a baseline of protection while the more complete package of rules is developed. “These emergency regulations place the key components of SB 4 regarding water-quality monitoring and testing and regarding public transparency into effect as of Jan. 1, 2014,” Nechodom said. The administrative law office has 10 working days to review the regulations. Information about the emergency rulemaking process can be found at oal.ca.gov/Emergency_Regulations_Process.htm. Information about the Department of Conservation’s related activities, which include public hearings about the proposed permanent regulations, the text of those regulations, and separate scoping meetings for a statewide Environmental Impact Report on the use of well stimulation, can be found at conservation.ca.gov. The temporary regulations can also be found on that site.

•  A panel of federal judges on Dec. 11 extended California’s deadline to cut its prison population until April 18, according to the Sacramento Bee. Judges also ordered that negotiations continue over the best way to reduce inmate crowding in state prisons. According to the Bee, the state now must reduce the prison population to about 110,000 inmates by April, rather than February, a date judges had previously extended the original June 2013 deadline to. California has reduced its population by 25,000 inmates over the last two years, and still has 4,400 more inmates to slough off before reaching the population cap, the Bee said. A state law passed earlier this year enables California to spend $315 million this fiscal year to house inmates in private prisons and county jails unless the court extends the deadline for reducing prison populations even further. The article said the state has been pushing for a three-year delay in the court ordered deadline in order to give recently introduced rehabilitation programs time to work.

• U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) and U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pennsylvania) introduced H.R. 3718, the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act, on Dec. 12. The bill would help federal fire fighters harmed through the hazards of serving—such as repeated exposure to smoke—obtain disability benefits. A press release sent out by Capps’ office said that numerous studies have found heart disease, lung disease, certain cancers, and other infectious diseases to be occupational hazards of firefighting. The release also said that while most municipal firefighters are able to automatically get disability coverage when they’re diagnosed with those illnesses, federal firefighters have a harder time. Federal fighters must pinpoint the exact incident or exposure that causes their disease. “This is not feasible and leaves many federal firefighters sick, but without care,” the release said. Capps said many Americans would be surprised to realize that federal firefighters don’t have the same benefits access as municipal firefighters. “This is a clear injustice,” Capps said in the release. Rep. Meehan said that both sets of firefighters face the same risks and should get the same gratitude for their sacrifices. “This legislation ensures that our federal firefighters are treated fairly under the law and brings them to parity with their local counterparts,” Meehan said in the release.