An Analysis of the Formulation of California Senate Bill 4
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 policy makes strange bedfellows and this bill is one example. The regulation of fracking, the shorthand used for hydraulic fracturing, is controversial.
Conducting he 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. To find out what had happened to bring hydraulic fracking into the public arena and for the process to keep moving forward required identify key players, the stakeholders and the relevant events. The data for the policy analysis was collected from secondary, published sources. Academic peer reviewed sources, books, white papers, and written testimony to the US Senate was found to be useful. Textbooks on political theory were used as a reference for the background of theories and explanations of current political agenda-setting theory. The data was used to determine the agenda setting model most appropriate for evaluating the rise of SB 4 to the legislative level of agenda making. The dependent variables were evaluated in order to understand how the policy process of SB 4 was accomplished. The cause of the study was the passing of SB 4; therefore it is the independent variable.
The aim of the research was to gain an understanding of the California public policy process that resulted in the creation of SB 4. The public policy 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 show the causal and logical relationship between variables. That meant that selecting an independent variable and dependent variables was necessary. The passing of SB 4 was chosen as the independent variable, so the dependent variables are the data gathered from the literature review sources. 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 subjects addressed in the literature review was determined by the research question and the research aim.
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.
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.
In other words, the data included factors that made fracking a policy issue, the point of view that successfully identified fracking as a problem and led to a consensus, the solutions 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.
Procedures for Data Collection
The subjects 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, papers and books. Primary sources were used to collect data directly from legal documents, political science textbooks and books explaining classic public policy theories. Textbooks on political theory were used as a reference for the background of theories and explanations of current political agenda-setting theory.
Secondary sources were mainly 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. 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 had published major studies with relevant data.
Legal sources included the opinions of law offices that published on the California Environmental Law blog were used because they predicting obstacles to framing the policy as environmental or pro-industry. Other sources for legal characterizations and opinions about the policy and the policy process were found from the Fordham Environmental Law Review, the Center for Law, Energy and Environment at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. The California state government was an online source of data and so was the national agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
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. The factors were then discussed with reference to the independent variable, SB 4.
Assumptions and Limitations of the Study
The amount of literature and information on the use of fracking in the United States and in California is 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 the 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, fracking, has been used for many years in California, but this is the first time a bill has been passed to regulate the activity. First and secondary sources such as academic peer reviewed sources; books, 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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