California oil regulators release draft of fracking rules
Under pressure from state lawmakers and environmentalists, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration on Tuesday released draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the controversial drilling process driving a national oil and gas boom.
The rules come after oil regulators hosted a series of public workshops this year to assuage public concern over the procedure, which involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground to tap oil.
Environmentalists and community activists have raised concerns about potential environmental and public health hazards, including contaminated drinking water. Representatives from the energy industry have said that hydraulic fracturing is safe and that oil companies have used the technology in California for decades without incident.
Much of the anxiety stems from the fact that, unlike other oil-producing states, California does not require oil companies to disclose where they use the procedure or what chemicals they pump into the ground -- many of them known carcinogens.
The proposed rules released Tuesday by the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources would require oil companies to disclose that information on a national fracking registry, FracFocus.org, after they use the procedure. The rules would also require energy firms to test the integrity of their wells before fracking to guard against leaks and report the results of those tests to regulators before they begin operations.
Regulators labeled the proposed regulations a "discussion draft," saying in a statement that they were "a starting point for discussion by key stakeholders" and would not trigger the formal rulemaking process, which is expected to begin early next year.
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Homes overlook an Inglewood oil field. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times