SACRAMENTO — As a showdown nears on legislation that would regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California, one prominent activist is criticizing four aides to Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) for their holdings in energy company stocks.
Fracking is a controversial process that involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground to break up rock and increase production of oil and natural gas. Opponents say fracking fouls groundwater, pollutes the air and may raise the risk of earthquakes.
Jamie Court, president of the nonprofit gr0oup Consumer Watchdog, noted that most of the several bills that would regulate fracking have been sidelined in the Assembly and said he fears for the survival of a remaining measure by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).
“The hands of the speaker’s office are all over the death of these bills and there needs to be an investigation,” Court said. He has filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which is reviewing the facts. Representatives of the Assembly deny any conflicts of interest.
Court noted that Steve Maviglio, who serves as a spokesman for Perez on contract, disclosed in a required report in March that he owned stock worth between $100,000 and $1 million in Linn Energy, which uses fracking in its operation of oil and natural gas wells.
Maviglio said he sold his shares in Linn for less than $100,000 shortly after going to work for Perez in March and he said he has had no part in discussions about fracking bills. He also said he has done work “against oil companies” for the Better World Group and as chief campaign spokesman against two oil companies that put Proposition 23 on the ballot.
Among other Perez aides, one has disclosed owning stock in Chevron Corp., though that top staffer has been on medical leave. Two others who own shares of Exxon Mobile Corp. and Alliant Energy Corp. have had “no policy involvement” in the fracking issue, according to Jon Waldie, the chief administrative officer of the Assembly.
Court said an FPPC investigation is needed to reassure the public that the fracking bills are being considered on their merits.