Sen. Fran Pavley Discusses Fracking, Drought and Cougar Crossing

July 21, 2015
In The News

State Senator Fran Pavley, who represents the 27th district that includes Malibu, has earned a national reputation for drafting cutting-edge environmental legislation. Her 2002 California Clean Car Standards bill survived a Supreme Court decision and, in 2009, Obama directed that it become the national standard.

Pavley spoke at the Malibu Democratic Club’s “First Saturday Speaker Series” where she talked about what she’s working on in Sacramento.

According to Pavley, there has been new action on climate change legislation. She and other senators have taken on Gov. Jerry Brown’s idea that the state’s 2030 climate goals need to be increased to 50 percent renewable power, a 50 percent cut in petroleum use (by going to different types of fuel) and a 50 percent cut in building energy use and efficiency.

She noted that California already “allows no new long-term contracts for coal coming into our state” — a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. 

As Chairperson of the state’s Water Committee, Pavley wants to make use of a water bond approved by state voters three years ago for local projects to help alleviate the effects of the four-year drought. 

At the top of her list, she wants to clean up vast amounts of groundwater in the San Fernando Valley that was contaminated during World War II. If cleaned up, it could “supply one-quarter of the City of L.A.’s water needs,” she said. 

Storm water capture is also high on her list as a source of water, and one long-term plan is to change the L.A. River from a concrete culvert back to its original natural state. Along the river and its planned pocket parks, pipes would take in excess storm water and inject it back into the natural underground aquifers. 

Lastly, she’s looking at better methods of groundwater management, since 60 percent of the state’s water comes from the ground. Unfortunately, the water is being pulled out of the ground in many places faster than nature can replenish it, and that is what needs to be regulated. However, “the politics of groundwater are extreme,” she noted. 

Pavley said in some areas of the Central Valley, “there’s been a 30-foot drop in land, and some of the wells have been contaminated.”

Cougar crossing

A proposed 100-foot wide “wildlife bridge” over the 101 Freeway near the Liberty Canyon exit in Agoura Hills, which would allow all wildlife, including mountain lions, to leave the Santa Monica Mountains “island” (surrounded by freeways) to disperse into new territories and broaden their gene pools, is still a work in progress. Night-vision cameras have photographed animals crossing under the freeway through a tunnel at that relatively undeveloped location, and one or two mountain lions have been killed by cars when trying to cross over the 101. The overpass concept has proven effective in locations outside California. 

Pavley is working closely with agencies and nonprofit organizations to broker solutions, including CalTrans, NPS, SMMC, the National Wildlife Federation and Congressman Ted Lieu. However, she said, “The state is not going to pay for it. It’ll be all fundraising, but the project has gotten national attention.”


Fracking, which involves injecting water or acid into an existing oil or gas well to increase production, was a topic of concern to Malibu locals. An important independent study on the impacts of fracking in California was released last week. The report can be found on the California Council on Science and Technology website.

Pavley said since “95 percent of California’s fracked wells are in Kern County, and Kern County Supervisors don’t engage on the issue,” her main focus has been on regulating water usage and air contaminants in the L.A. basin resulting from the fracking process. She’s also trying to pass a bill to reform the state’s regulatory agency, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

“I voted to ban fracking four times,” she said, “and the votes just weren’t there. The oil companies would’ve killed any regulatory bill.”