State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chairwoman of the Committee on Natural Resources and Water, wrote to state regulators last year asking basic questions: Where does fracking take place; How often is it used; And what are the potential risks?
Regulators had few answers, saying they had "limited data" because the state has no reporting requirements.
"I was very surprised," Pavley said in an interview. "You would hate to find out after the fact that we had not done the minimum to protect the people we took an oath to protect."
Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) introduced a bill that would require oil companies to disclose where they employ the process, what chemicals they use and how much water they pump. In a legislative hearing last year, the lawmaker described it as a "deliberately modest step."
"We're not stopping drilling; we're not screwing up the permitting process," Wieckowski said. "We're just allowing the regulators to have some information so we don't get letters back to senators saying, 'We don't know what's going on.'"
The energy industry balked. Among the chief opponents was Halliburton. As it has elsewhere, the company argued that full disclosure of the chemicals in its fracking fluid would compromise valuable trade secrets.
Although it never registered as an official opponent, Halliburton and its lobbyists ran a quiet campaign to weaken the legislation, meeting privately with lawmakers and state agencies.
During a committee hearing last year, Pavley told her colleagues that she had heard rumors of Halliburton's opposition and asked if anyone in the audience was representing the service company.
Lobbyist Terry McGann, of the powerful California Strategies firm, stepped to the microphone.
"They do want to protect the tens of millions of dollars in investments they've made for their particular combination," he said.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, chairman of the Environmental Quality Committee, called on Halliburton to be more candid and avoid what he called a "silent campaign of opposition."
McGann was conciliatory, saying the company was not opposed to a disclosure bill. He offered to follow up with Pavley privately, in her office.
The bill later stalled.