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California’s Draft Fracking Regulations Lets Oil and Gas Companies off the Hook

Public notification of fracking operations required 60 days after cessation of fracking

Cross-posted from Earthworks

When the State of California announced with great fanfare back in May that it was going to develop regulations for fracking, many of us assumed that meant some sort of system by which the oil and gas companies would be held accountable to state agencies and the public.

photoname Photo by Dave NixenSalinas Valley, California. Last week the federal government auctioned off mineral rights for
17,000 acres of public land in central California to oil and gas companies.

Unfortunately, that was wishful thinking; the state's draft fracking regulations take the public health of Californians and put it in the hands of Chevron, Occidental and other oil and gas companies.

That’s because the state’s draft regulations (pdf) — released this week by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), — do not hold oil and gas companies accountable.

Instead California's draft regulations are about agency notification and data collection. For example, if fracking is going to be done in a particular area, the company will need to notify DOGGR only 10 days prior and again 24 hours prior to the start of the operation. The data the company submits prior to fracking is public record but not publicly posted. Neither the state nor the company will notify the public that their land (or schoolyard or vineyard or backyard) is about to be fracked.

As the process continues, DOGGR gets more data and info, but the draft regulations do not provide the agency with the authority to say “no” to fracking. The plan is clearly assuming that California is a “drill baby drill” “frack baby frack” state.

Public notification about fracking operations, and the chemicals they’re injecting through the water table, is only required 60 days after cessation of fracking.  At that point, the operator is required to post information unless it claims that its chemicals mix is a trade secret.

Furthermore, this info does not get posted on a state website, but on industry co-sponsored FracFocus.  This creates an unwieldy two-tier system, forcing Californians to look in two places for oil and gas information affecting their communities — the current California state oil and gas website which maps every oil and gas well in California, and FracFocus.

So under the draft regulations, the only way a landowner would know if the well on their property was fracked would be to wait two months, then check the state website against the FracFocus website.
If you’ve been drinking water from a well your whole life, or irrigating your vineyard from a groundwater well, these regulations will not protect you if your well or your land is polluted from a fracking operation nearby. If you a drilling operation near your home goes bad, then who is liable for a breach or a spill? Not the operator — their only requirement is to report the breach or spill to DOGGR, not to be held accountable for harming the public or California's environment. Under these draft regulations, Californians suffering from fracking contamination are on their own.

DOGGR is responsible for protecting the public. Unless these draft regulations are improved, they will fail in their job. While it's laudable for California to recognize the need to catch up to other states by regulating hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, it's hard to find much to praise from this discussion draft of fracking regulations.

Jennifer Krill, Executive Director, EARTHWORKSJennifer Krill photo
As program director at Rainforest Action Network, Jennifer Krill helped lead campaigns to protect old growth forests and break America’s oil addiction. She is currently the executive director of EARTHWORKS, an advocacy group that focuses on the negative impacts of mineral and energy extraction.

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Maybe Ms. Krill could stop hyper-ventilating about bad oil and its drilling and completion practices to at least spell fracing correctly.  The term comes from sand fracs as in fracture stimulation. This industry sort of laughs at the so-called journalists that don’t even bother to research their attack topics well enough to even spell the terms correctly, if it were funny instead of pathetic.  Maybe we should call her outfit Erth - Just-Us becasue I like that spelling better. There has been over two million wells in the US alone that have been fraced since 1949, without any issues as the EPA announced recently.  Such completion techniques have recently resulted in unimaginable increases in oil and gas reserves from formations prior considered to be only source rocks, or shale, which is essentially ocean mud that has been cooked for 20 - 175 million years with all of the dead plant and animal life entrained within.  I will make this very short for Ms. Krill: while you agonize over life without oil and natural gas, the life blood of civilizations for about 150 years now, and what brought about the modern world as we know it, please bear in mind that every war last century had blood and oil as the objectives, and nothing has changed so far this century. Think about what life in this country would be like without fossil fuels driving our economy. When you object to more domestic drilling, please run your empty-headed objections first by the Marines in Camp Pendleton, who enforce this country’s international “energy” policy, and then come back and sit at your desk and write your pablum of a Prius fantasy land where electricity comes only from the sun and we are running our global economies with wood pulp and cow manure. Oh, and let’s not forget the 6,000 primary products from a barrel of nature’s crude oil, particularly plastics and lubricants that make it possible for Ms. Krill and other industry ignorant feel-good bloggers to get up in the morning and drive to work with virtually everything they touch having some petroleum derivative. Maybe that is too scary for you, Ms. Krill?  In other words, if you want to make a career out of retarding other people’s human activities and growth, then at least understand your target like you were taught in early school to understand your subject matter.  Maybe then you would actually learn something instead of trying to make a name for yourself tearing down, falsely, other people’s livelihoods.

By Stephen Harris on Sun, December 23, 2012 at 5:27 am

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