On December 18, California issued its first-ever fracking regulations that would require oil and gas companies to report where they are using hydraulic fracturing ten days before starting operation as well as disclosing what chemicals they are using. The California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) under California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration proposed the draft rules. Currently, the public and state officials have no way of knowing when or where energy companies are using fracking, a process that can pollute groundwater with hazardous chemicals.
According to DOGGRA, in addition to the ten-day notification before fracking a well, companies would also be required to submit a second notification 24 hours before fracking starts, allowing field inspectors a chance to monitor the work. But environmentalists, including the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has been monitoring fracking in the state for several years, say the proposed regulations have several flaws. For one, they allow drilling companies to state that some of the chemicals they use are trade secrets and should not be disclosed to the public. Also, under the new proposal, companies would not have to obtain a special permit for fracking, and the regulations would allow a well to be fracked without much notice to those living in the area.
Environmentalists are also disturbed by the fact that specific information would appear on DOGGRA’s website three days before the start of fracking, a length of time they consider too short. They are worried that the proposed rules don’t discuss the practice’s affect on air quality and its possible link to earthquakes.
In a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity, director of the group, Kassie Siegel, said, “The Department of Conservation's draft fracking rules do almost nothing to protect our air, water or climate,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute. “California faces huge environmental risks unless state officials halt this dangerous fracking boom.”
Fracking in California is on the rise. According to FracFocus.org, that collects data from oil companies, close to 600 wells have been fracked in the state in the past two years. But even that number is an estimate. And fracking has expanded through most of the Central Valley into San Benito County and especially into Monterey County, especially the Monterey Shale, a geological formation holding an estimated 14 billion barrels of oil. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, fracking has been linked to water and air pollution in other states, and it releases large quantities of methane. California's draft regulations require well operators to report fracking on FracFocus.org that does not provide actual transparency or accountability.
DOGGRA insists that the proposed regulations support disclosure requirements that require rigorous testing before, during and after fracking to make sure wells are unharmed and that drinking water is not contaminated. The proposed state regulations would require the casing, tubing and cement lining of each well borehole to be tested to ensure the well can withstand fracking. Energy companies would not be allowed to frack near existing wells or fault lines. And not only does California of Public Health maintain a database of quarterly testing results for drinking wells across the state, and municipal agencies also maintain local water supply quality data.
Officials from the agency stressed, however, that the proposed rules could change significantly. It said that it welcomes comments from the public as it continues to work on draft regulations expected to complete early in 2013.