Chapter 3: Methodology
California Lutheran University
Chapter III: Methodology
The purpose of this research has been to focus on the decision making and agenda setting policy concerning the regulation of hydraulic fracturing to drill for petroleum products when California Senate Bill (SB) 4 was passed. Hydraulic fracturing has been used for many years in California, but this is the first time a bill has been passed to regulate the activity. The bill was passed in the assembly first and then moved to the senate where it was passed in the form of SB 4.
The factors and actors that worked together to put hydraulic fracking on the agenda of the California Assembly and Senate brought together a wide range of opinions held by the proponents and the opponents of the bill. A famous adage of political science is that politics makes strange bedfellows and this bill is one example. The regulation of fracking, the shorthand used for hydraulic fracturing, is controversial.
Conducting the research has been an opportunity to understand how and why the fracking issue gained enough momentum to reach the level of legislative decision-making. The research question addresses the reason for the research. ‘What factors contributed to the development and passage of SB 4?’
A case study has been used to research the policy process for SB 4. A literature review was used to describe theoretical models that have been developed. The case study approach required following the history that preceded the policy reaching the Senate’s agenda and the passage of the bill. The key players, stakeholders, and relevant events find out were evaluated to learn more about how the well stimulation bill on regulating hydraulic fracking reached the public arena and for the process to keep moving forward required identifying key players, the stakeholders and the relevant events. The data for the policy analysis were collected from secondary, published sources. Academic peer reviewed sources such as including white papers, and written testimony to the US Senate were found to be useful in order to gain a full understanding of the complex issue and the factors impacting the creation of the policy.
The information collected for the research was chosen because of the impact to the quality of life of California residents and their environment that was part of the public discussion on fracking. Several types of information were brought to the attention of the public in a way that created the political atmosphere that launched hydraulic fracking on its path to becoming public policy. The issues surrounding the process were evaluated to learn the factors that changed public opinion into viewing hydraulic fracking as a problem that needed regulation. Topics discussed in organized groups, the people, organizations and entities that influenced the senates’ vote, the stakeholders and the driving force leading to the issuance of the policy as a law were reviewed.
The California state web sites (ca.gov) about voting were used to determine the agenda setting model most appropriate for evaluating the rise of SB 4 to the legislative level of agenda-making (http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billAnalysisClient.xhtml). Several other factors were evaluated in order to understand how the policy process of SB 4 was accomplished. The factors and their sources are described next.
The locations of oil drilling wells using the hydrofracturing technique were determined by using databases provided by the California Coastal Commission (http://www.coastal.ca). Maps of the onshore and offshore locations of hydraulic fracking wells in California were studied to aid in the assessment of the location of water sources that could be impacted, therefore leading to public concern.
The location and degree of water stress and location were determined by utilizing approaches developed by Ceres (www.ceres.org). Water stress is a negative environmental change. The amount of area in California under water stress were considered as the amount experiencing drought, and the size of the region of wildfires at the time the issue was growing in priority with the public were studied in order to evaluate increased or decreased environmental stress and if it could influence public opinion.
California gas taxes were collected from Gas Price Charts (inflationdata.com). The California surcharge amounts on gas consumption were available from the California Board of Equalization (2014) The California gas taxes and gas surcharges were evaluated because the cost of fuel influences opinion on whether or not to drill for fossil fuel.
Employment rates (Ca.gov) were also evaluated because the oil and gas sector is often considered a necessary industry to employ residents and ease unemployment rates (for example, like in Louisiana after the Deep Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico).
Lawsuits against companies carrying out fracking initiated by high-profile California environmental advocacy groups were studied to determine the degree of influence in the agenda-setting policy process (www.lexusnexus.com).
The above factors in the California political landscape were considered for the research. Numerical values for the percentage of California citizens with an interest in the factors were applied when enough data was available. Numerical values for the environmental factors occurring in the California environment at the time were used.
The aim of the research was to gain an understanding of the policy process that resulted in the creation of SB 4. The theories for agenda setting and decision-making were included in the literature review. The design of this qualitative research required setting up the study to look for relationships in the public opinion arena that could have helped initiate the process. The focus of the research was the process that resulted in the passing of the SB 4 on hydraulic fracking. Interestingly, although the hydraulic fracking has been on-going in California for years, no regulations or standards were ever established in the California legislature. Hydraulic fracking has been going on in other states, so a comparison was made of whether or not creating a policy was an issue, do other states have policies for regulating fracking, and what are the differences and similarities to SB 4 of other state laws.
Selection of Subjects
The selection of the topics for analysis directed the themes studied during the literature review and the numerical values assessed for degree of negative environmental influences, the California Congressional Record for the voting record of the Senate by comparing the number of Democrats versus Republicans who voted Yay or Nay, and other quantifiable information that supported or refuted the hypothesis
The question: What factors contributed to the development and passage of SB 4?
The aim has been to gain an understanding of the California public policy process that resulted in the creation of SB 4 using public policy theories for agenda setting and decision-making.
Based on the research question and research aim, the objectives were listed. Establishing the objectives aided in choosing the subjects. The subjects are listed below.
1) The factors that made fracking a policy issue for the general public, business and organizations.
2) The perspective that focused the fracking issue is such a way that fracking became identified as a problem, and allowed the issue to remain in the limelight.
3) Number 2 describes how the consensus was established. After the consensus, solutions to the problem were discussed in various California groups and organizations.
4) The actors that influenced the vote placed by California legislators for or against CA SB 4.
5) The fracking stakeholders involved in the CA SB 4 debate.
6) Identification of the driving force behind the issuance of the CA SB 4.
Procedures for Data Collection
The topics for analysis were selected from the objectives were the guide to what data to collect. Search engines including ProQuest, Questia, Science Direct, Elsevier Connect, Emerald Insight and Lexus Nexus were used to find essential articles and papers that provided an overview and details of classic policy agenda setting theories. Secondary sources for research on the subject were mainly found at Science Direct and the California Legislature.
During the first step of the research, the researcher listed the possible impacts for policy making and agenda setting that may have possibly influenced the regulation of well stimulation methods (hydrofracturing and acid stimulation) in California. The first step general overview took into account that whatever had influenced the policy making had happened recently because hydrofracturing had been allowed in California for so many years without regulation, permitting or any type of meeting standards. The first step of the research determined that major legislative influences were firstly, at the federal level and secondly, at the state level. The influences from the US EPA regulations were studied and led to the reasonable assumption that water was an important factor. The history is reported in the literature review. The relevance of water as a political issue was found to be a recent factor due to water shortages and concerns about pollution. The final SB 4 demonstrated that safe water was indeed a concern. Therefore, perspectives on water in California by Californians were accepted as an impact on policy building. Other secondary sources were found in academic and professional peer review journals. The journals included Scientific American, Energy Policy, Policy Sciences, and The American Conservative and the California Independent Petroleum Association were valuable as part of the literature review to understand the background of the issue and to learn more about factors that could be further researched as measures of policy change. Several California institutes like the Wheeler Institute for Water Law and Policy, the Price School of Public Policy, Viterbi School of Engineering, and the Communications Institute at the University of Southern California published major studies with relevant analysis and numerical values of factors impacting policy perspectives. These research sources were used as guides.
Procedures for Data Analysis
Data analysis for a qualitative study was difficult but using a scientific method to create the research questions, aims and objectives helped guide the analysis procedures. The research was a case study of a policy setting agenda so other case studies on the same subject were reviewed as guides. The factors needed to meet the objectives were listed. Then the factors were categorized. Under each category a timeline of events was made so a sense of the movement of the process could be better understood. By studying the draft of the factors by theme and in order of occurrence helped to identify the factors that best demonstrated the policy making and agenda setting process. Conflicts and confrontations as used in Kingdon’s theory were reported.
The numerical values used at data for the research included using maps to determine the proximity of fracking wells of water stressed areas. The values for gas prices and gas taxes were determined from inflation data from 2008 to 2014. Tim McMahon a financial market expert runs Inflationdata.com. The data on inflationdata.com is calculated from the Current Inflation Rate, the Historical Inflation Rate, Current Consumer Price Index and the Historical Consumer Price Index. The values of gas prices and taxes for California were compared with values from New York and Texas in order to determine the status of California compared to other gas producing states (inflationdata.com). The values used to compare were also taken from inflation data for the years from 2008 to 2014 (inflationdata.com). The number of civilian unemployed and the end of the year employment rates from 2003 to 2011 were taken from the California government. The range of employed was reported in number of individuals and the rate reported in percentage.
Values for resource surcharge revenues on gas consumption were collected for the California Board of Equalization. Employment figures were assessed from California government values (gov.ca). The votes by Senators on the bill were evaluated (gov.ca). (See appendix).
Assumptions and Limitations of the Study
The amount of literature and information on the use of fracking in the United States and in California are enormous. The choices made for data selection were assumed to be credible and reliable sources. This is the first research project of this type for the author may have included some inappropriate sources. Every effort was made to exclude sources using propaganda or facts that could not be substantiated in other references. Finally, an assumption was made that the best resources were chosen and were used to write the research.
The current public policy theories have their strong and weak points. The use of more than one theory to evaluate a case study is not unusual. Because no ‘one-size-fits-all’ theory has been developed, SB 4 was described using the parts of theories that best fit the events in the case of California SB 4. Therefore the assumption was made that public policy decision-making and agenda setting can only be described by using the parts of the political science models that are most appropriate.
The main weakness or limitation for the study had to do with the basic theme that a process does not stop long enough to provide a perfectly clear view of all the influencing factors and what had happened at any given time. The process of data analysis included constant review of the research questions and the final wording of SB 4. Even with the effort pinning down all the factors that influenced the process was an impossible task. An attempt was made to describe the most influential factors. The timing or length of time that the factors had the most influence on the process was very difficult to pinpoint.
The research was undertaken to better understand the decision making and agenda setting policy concerning the regulation of hydraulic fracturing to drill for petroleum products when California Senate Bill (SB) 4 was passed. The characteristics of the California policy making process are different than in other states. Interestingly, hydraulic fracturing has been used for many years in California, but this is the first time a bill has been passed to regulate the activity. Secondary sources such as academic peer reviewed sources; white papers, and written testimony to the US Senate were used. Theories on political agenda-setting and decision-making theories were studied and reviewed in a literature review. The factors that were the main focus of the research were determined from the objectives of the research and the availability of information on those factors in the references. Many perspectives were included when evaluating the way the process worked in California until the passing of SB 4.
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The final Senate Vote on SB 4 September 11, 2013
Voting record for California Senate Bill 4 Oil and Gas: Well Stimulation (2013-2014)
(Source CA legislative information http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billAnalysisClient.xhtml)
Senate Unofficial Ballot of vote on September 11, 2013 on SB 4
MEASURE: SB 4
MOTION: Unfinished Supp 1 SB4 Pavley Concurrence
(AYES 29. NOES 8.) (PASS)
Beall Berryhill Block Calderon
Cannella Corbett Correa De León
DeSaulnier Evans Galgiani Hancock
Hernandez Hill Hueso Jackson
Lara Leno Lieu Liu
Monning Padilla Pavley Roth
Steinberg Torres Wolk Wright
Anderson Fuller Gaines Knight
Nielsen Vidak Walters Wyland
NO VOTE RECORDED
Emmerson Huff Vacancy