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Fracking in California

Just over 2,000 wells have been fracked in California, according to industry data. (Craig Miller/KQED)

Just over 2,000 wells have been fracked in California, according to industry data. (Craig Miller/KQED)

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. According to the oil industry, more than 2,000 wells have been fracked in the state.

Concerns

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

In November 2013, state regulators released draft rules for fracking that are now expected to go into effect in July 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.

New California County Fracking Bans Likely to Face Challenges

KQED Science | November 5, 2014 | 1 Comment

New California County Fracking Bans Likely to Face Challenges

Passage of two out of three local measures may just set the stage for next battle.

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With Drought, New Scrutiny Over Fracking’s Water Use

KQED Science | October 10, 2014 | 6 Comments

With Drought, New Scrutiny Over Fracking’s Water Use

The drought is putting a spotlight on water use around California, including for hydraulic fracturing. How much water does fracking use and will it increase as companies tap into the Monterey Shale, estimated to be the largest oil resource in country?

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Anti-Fracking Activists in California Take Fight to County Ballots

KQED Science | October 10, 2014 | 16 Comments

Anti-Fracking Activists in California Take Fight to County Ballots

Activists are hoping local residents will do what state legislators haven’t done -- shut down the controversial oil production technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

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California’s New Fracking Regulations Delayed Half a Year

KQED Science | July 11, 2014 | 7 Comments

California’s New Fracking Regulations Delayed Half a Year

State lawmakers approved the delay in late June, and at the same time tightened up the environmental review process for fracking permits.

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California’s Monterey Shale: Bonanza or Bust? Nobody Really Knows

KQED Science | May 21, 2014 | 2 Comments

California’s Monterey Shale: Bonanza or Bust? Nobody Really Knows

There's more than meets the eye to the reported reassessment of the state's next big oil play.

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Estimate of Recoverable Monterey Shale Oil Slashed by Officials

KQED Science | May 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Estimate of Recoverable Monterey Shale Oil Slashed by Officials

The amount of oil that can be recovered from California's vast Monterey Shale formation using existing technology is far less than thought.

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Santa Cruz Is First California County to Ban Fracking

KQED Science | May 20, 2014 | 1 Comment

Santa Cruz Is First California County to Ban Fracking

Tuesday morning the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the pre-emptive move against hydraulic fracturing. A state bill that would ban fracking until there is more scientific study is in limbo.

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California Farmers Look to Oil Industry for Water

KQED Science | April 7, 2014 | 13 Comments

California Farmers Look to Oil Industry for Water

As water supplies tighten for California farmers, some are looking to an unlikely new source: a water recycling project in one of the state's oldest oil fields.

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How Water and Oil Mix in California

KQED Science | March 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

How Water and Oil Mix in California

California is the third-largest oil producing state in the country. To produce oil, companies deal with massive amounts of water. They need it for hydraulic fracturing, and they produce a lot from underground.

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Brown Tussles With Fracking Foes at State Convention

News Fix | March 10, 2014

Brown Tussles With Fracking Foes at State Convention

Governor gets an earful from environmentalists during address to California Democrats' confab. ...Read More

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EPA Imposes New Rules for Fracking Off S. California Coast

News Fix | January 9, 2014

EPA Imposes New Rules for Fracking Off S. California Coast

Oil and gas companies that are fracking off the Southern California coast must report chemicals discharged into the ocean under a new rule released by federal environmental regulators.

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Mad About Mud: Debate Heats up Over Waste From Oil & Gas Wells

KQED Science | December 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

Mad About Mud: Debate Heats up Over Waste From Oil & Gas Wells

Drilling mud is the slick concoction used to cool and lubricate a drill bit, and it’s used for all kinds of wells, including oil and gas. Environmental groups are turning their attention to drilling mud, which is currently exempted from water monitoring.

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New California Fracking Regulations Proposed

Forum | November 18, 2013

New California Fracking Regulations Proposed

KQED Forum discusses the state's proposed fracking regulations and what they could mean for California's economy and environment with a panel of experts.

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What California’s New Fracking Rules Would Do (And Not Do)

KQED Science | November 15, 2013 | 6 Comments

What California’s New Fracking Rules Would Do (And Not Do)

The debate over hydraulic fracturing in California is heating up as oil and gas regulators release draft rules for the controversial oil extraction technique.

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After the Frack

QUEST | November 4, 2013

After the Frack

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process of extracting natural gas that creates large amounts of contaminated wastewater. QUEST travels to Ohio to investigate how this wastewater is produced and the controversy over how to safely dispose of it.

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Jerry Brown Lashes Out Against Environmentalists Over Fracking

News Fix | October 30, 2013

Jerry Brown Lashes Out Against Environmentalists Over Fracking

On KQED's "Forum," the governor said fracking is only one small part of climate change. ...Read More

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New State Laws on Fracking and Toxics: A Mixed Bag for Environmentalists

KQED Science | October 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

New State Laws on Fracking and Toxics: A Mixed Bag for Environmentalists

Now that California's legislative session is now over, here's a roundup of the environmental bills that passed -- and a review of some big ones that didn't.

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Animated Explainer: What’s All The Fuss About Fracking in California?

The Lowdown | September 27, 2013

Animated Explainer: What’s All The Fuss About Fracking in California?

Check out a few primers on hydraulic fracturing. The controversial extraction technique involves a high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations in order to release reserves of oil or natural gas.

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Alice Waters, Fellow Chefs Launch Petition Against Fracking

News Fix | September 26, 2013

Alice Waters, Fellow Chefs Launch Petition Against Fracking

The Berkeley chef and dozens of other food experts have asked for a California moratorium on fracking.

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Little Love for California Fracking Bill as It Nears Passage

News Fix | September 11, 2013

Little Love for California Fracking Bill as It Nears Passage

A fracking bill in the State Legislature has been amended 10 times since it was introduced. Some of those changes have made environmental groups angry — particularly the removal of a conditional moratorium on fracking.

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