Firms step up fracking disclosure; activists want it banned
The Western States Petroleum Assn. on Tuesday released the results of a membership survey showing that major oil companies used hydraulic fracturing on 628 wells in the state in 2011, the overwhelming majority of which were located in Kern County. The information was first reported last month to regulators who requested it amid public and legislative pressure.
California, the fourth-largest oil producing state in the country, does not require oil companies to disclose where they use the procedure or what chemicals they inject into the ground to tap oil deposits. Other states have imposed moratoriums and drawn up rules after toxic chemicals were discovered in drinking water near fracking operations.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Assn., said the state's major oil producers planned to report their California fracking operations on a national online registry called FracFocus by July. On Tuesday, the website listed just 95 wells.
In a letter to regulators, Reheis-Boyd said the fracking survey was part of an industry effort to demonstrate to the state and the public that hydraulic fracturing is "a safe, well-understood and important energy production technology."
The effort comes as legislation that would make disclosure mandatory works its way through the Legislature and activists call for a statewide ban on fracking.
Food & Water Watch issued its own report on Tuesday and staged a news conference in Los Angeles near one of the country's largest urban oil fields to protest what the group called "the large, uncontrolled public health experiment that is unconventional oil and gas development."
“No amount of regulation can make this fundamentally destructive and toxic drilling safe; most certainly not mere notice of where fracking is taking place or the carcinogenic chemicals being used,” said Kristin Lynch, Pacific region director of Food & Water Watch, in a statement.
The petroleum association challenged the report.
"To call hydraulic fracturing a destructive technology ignores the facts and the experience about this technology," Reheis-Boyd said. "We’ve been doing this practice a long time in California, and there has been no documented incident of groundwater contamination."
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Oil wells in Oildale, Calif. Credit: Getty Images