Fracking in California
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been used for more than 30 years in California, but it’s attracting attention and scrutiny because of renewed interest in the state’s large oil reserve, known as the Monterey Shale.
In California, fracking is done mainly for oil, while in other states with recent fracking booms, like Pennsylvania and Texas, it’s used largely for natural gas.
What is it?
Fracking is just one phase of the process used to bring an oil or gas well into production. The technique is used to release oil from rocks deep underground. Water, mixed with sand and chemicals, is injected down the well bore at high pressure to create tiny fractures in the rock. California regulators don’t aggregate fracking data, but according to the oil industry, more than 2,000 wells have been fracked in the state.
Environmental groups have called for a moratorium on fracking until the state does a comprehensive review of potential impacts on both water and air quality. A chief concern is the chemicals used, some of which are carcinogens, and potential contamination of groundwater. Fracking also uses large volumes of freshwater. Industry sources say it uses less freshwater in California than is used in other states and no cases of groundwater contamination have been found.
Where it Stands
Last November, state regulators released draft rules for fracking that are expected to go into effect on January 1, 2015. They followed passage of SB 4, a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown, that spelled out what the regulations should cover.
Under the rules, oil and gas operators would be required to apply for a permit prior to fracking a well, and to provide written notice to nearby landowners. Operators would have to disclose what chemicals they use, but not the specific concentrations if they consider those a trade secret. State water regulators are also developing a groundwater monitoring program. The regulations are expected to be finalized by the end of 2014.
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