A bill being considered by lawmakers in California may bring increased accountability to oil companies who engage in fracking. Senate Bill 4 passed in the Senate with a 29-11 vote and is now in the hands of the Assembly.
What is fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and other chemicals into the ground in order to fracture shale rock layers. The method releases natural gas from these subterranean areas of the earth that were previously unreachable.
The major opposition to fracking comes from the issue that up to 600 chemicals are used in the fluid mixture. These include some known carcinogens and toxins such as lead, uranium, mercury, methanol, and hydrochloric acid. The hazardous chemicals may cause contamination of well water used for drinking or irrigation in towns near oil wells.
There is also the risk that the waste from the mixture will evaporate into the air and cause atmospheric damage. Additionally, the extensive amount of water usage is a matter of contention, with estimates that up to 8 million gallons of water may be used for each fracking effort.
Fracking is currently a highly contested issue in California. According to a recent USC Dornslife and Los Angels Times press release, 45 percent of voters oppose an increase in the use of fracking in California. However, when presented with the fact that fracking could lead to the reduction of energy and gas prices, 56 percent of voters agreed that fracking should not be entirely illegal in California.
What is the bill?
The recently amended fracking bill, SB 4, has been moved to the Assembly where it will be considered over the following weeks. The bill’s goal is to provide transparency and accountability to the public in regards to fracking. It states that there is currently insufficient information available to fully assess environmental, occupational, and public heath risks of fracking.
The new fracking bill would require oil companies to furnish a comprehensive list of the chemicals used in fracking and their concentration, how much water was used in the process, and how the mixture was disposed of upon completion.
SB 4 would order the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to conduct a scientific study on fracking by January 2015. The bill would also impose random governmental inspections on fracking facilities.
A division will be formed who, in consultation with various government environmental regulation departments and local boards, will adopt rules and regulations specific to fracking. These will be implemented prior to January 2015.
How regulations on fracking would affect California citizens?
SB 4 will allow individuals to proactively deal with local fracking hazards. Citizens worried about the effects of fracking on their well water may request the regional water quality control board to perform water quality sampling to test the water’s suitability for drinking or irrigation purposes. The tests will look at the water measurements prior to the introduction of fracking compared to the post-fracking water.
The bill would also call for considerable examinations into the realities of fracking over the next few years, with that information posted publicly. A realistic outlook on fracking should be brought to light between the disclosure requirements for companies engaged in fracking and the comprehensive government study. This will allow voters a pragmatic perspective when future ballot issues involving fracking are brought up.
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The differences between the carbon based energy industry's constant assertions (now being echoed by the US EPA) that there have been no validated/verified cases of fracking causing ground water pollution in the US and the environmentalist's arguments to the contrary may be one of semantics'. True there may not have been any full-scale migration of the 600 plus fracking chemicals to pollute wells and aquifers near fracking operations (reported as of yet). However, the incidence of methane gas migration via poor cement jobs and compromised casings from fracking (well integrity issues endemic to the fracking process and increased drilling activity) is well documented from peer reviewed scientific studies and a growing river of empirical evidence. Does it really matter what poisons our water supplies (BTEX or methane)? The permanently polluted water still denies public and agricultural use. Bottom line: we needed a moratorium of this risky endeavor three years ago in CA.
See Alberta-based environmental consultant Jessica Ernst just released the first comprehensive catalog and summary compendium of facts related to the contamination of North America’s ground water sources resulting from the oil and gas industry’s controversial practice of fracking. Brief Review of Threats to Groundwater from the Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Migration and Hydraulic Fracturing, looks to be a game-changing document, providing little wiggle room for private industry and government spokespeople advocating fracking’s immunity from public concern, criticism and liability. See http://www.frackingcanada.ca/industrys-gas-migration/ .
I'm concerned as to why the citizens must request the water testing. I think the state should automatically do this testing irregardless of requests. The legislature is essentially passing the buck to citizens to demand accountability.
Playing it safer that other states. But whose watching the crooks who are watching the crooks? Oil and Politics are in bed with each other.
I don't know if those regulations are enough or if fracking could ever be considered safe but it is definitely a step in the right direction and should be followed by the other 49 states.
The list of chemicals are well known and make up less then 1% of the fracking fluid. The EPA has stated that there has never been a case where fracking has caused ground water contamination even though the process has been in use for over 50 years.
In a state where the water ressources are scarce like in California, I think we need to be very careful before going forward with fracking.
Allowing citizens to request water quality testing and providing public information on the practice and potential dangers of fracking is a good start ... but in my opinion, the practice should be halted until after the scientific studies confirm that the 600 chemicals released do not have detrimental affects on the environment.
We could always just send money to another malignant country & pay them to poison their land & people, yes?
you mean to tell me they don't already require such information before approving the permit ..???..wtf kind of idiots are running the DNR..???..that information should be already available through the Feds ..don't they look at the permits ..???..what idiots ..
I'm not convinced Fracking is the solution. My area was tested by the oil companies for Shale deposits and found to be rich in Shale, and I am also 20 miles from the San Andreas Fault. So I am hesitant.
Which is why reasonable regulations are good and allowing citizens to request water testing is a great idea.
Agreed, but you have to balance the need for safety with the burden of over-regulation ... if you get tied up in regulation and costly testing/red-tape, California is never going to reduce its energy costs, which are some of the highest in the nation, and rising.
Over-regulation, shutdown of San Onofre, and the potential of rate increase this Summer are all going to make for a tough time with energy.