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New Times / News

The following article was posted on December 26th, 2012, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 22

State issues first fracking rules

BY KATHY JOHNSTON

Long-awaited draft regulations on fracking were recently issued by state oil regulators, following a series of public workshops, including one in Santa Maria last summer.

California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) said the draft rules are “a starting point for discussion” by the industry, the environmental community, other regulators, and the public.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—where huge volumes of water are mixed with chemicals and injected into the ground under high pressure to release oil and gas from rock formations—is currently unregulated in California. The oil industry is interested in using the technique on the huge geologic formation known as Monterey shale, which underlies San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Santa Barbara counties and other parts of the state.

The new regulations call for oil companies to do pre-fracking pressure tests of the cement lining in oil wells to make sure fracking chemicals don’t move into underground drinking water supplies. Producers would have to continue monitoring oil wells once fracking is completed.

Oil and gas producers would be required to give 10 days’ notice to DOGGR before using the controversial method. The information would be posted on DOGGR’s website three days before work begins. However, no notification of adjacent property owners is required.

For the first time, oil producers would be required to disclose what chemicals are used in fracking operations, by posting the information on a privately owned web database known as FracFocus within two months after the injections end. But the companies can claim the chemicals are “trade secrets,” which are exempt from notification requirements.

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the new rules.

“These draft regulations would keep California’s fracking shrouded in secrecy and do little to contain the many threats posed by fracking,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The rules are going to have to be completely rewritten if the goal is to provide real protection for our air, water, and communities.”

Food & Water Watch Pacific Region Director Kristin Lynch said the proposed regulations prove that DOGGR “has no intention to move beyond the lawless Wild West when it comes to fracking in our state, leaving us at the mercy of the oil and gas industry.”

Lynch added, “The ‘regulations’ proposed are akin to having state speeding regulations where automobile drivers are expected to contact law enforcement on their own volition if they break the posted speed limit at any given time.”

DOGGR plans to hold several workshops on the draft rules before starting its formal rulemaking process. Written comments can be submitted to comments@conservation.ca.gov.