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New California Fracking Law Regulates Controversial Practice

The California Senate and Assembly recently passed a bill that will regulate fracking. Fracking is a controversial environmental practice that is not currently tracked or regulated by the state. Governor Brown has said that he will sign the bill into law, creating much needed oversight of a potentially dangerous practice.

What the frack?

What is fracking? Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process in which water, chemicals, and sand are injected into the ground at a high speed to brake up the underlying rock. During this process, oil and natural gas are recovered from deposits several thousand feet below the earth’s surface.

Other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, are dealing with fracking controversies. Residents of those states are complaining that fracking contaminated their drinking water supply and the air. Studies have also linked fracking to seismic activity, even in areas that are not prone to earthquakes.

The new law will require oil and gas companies to obtain permits before conducting fracking operations. The substances used in the fracking process must be disclosed and nearby landowners must be notified of the company’s plans. Additionally, the state will implement an environmental impact review. These changes will not go into effect until 2015.

California is an oil state?

California is the third-largest oil producer in the United States. Companies have employed fracking techniques in California for many years, but only in small amounts in a remote area of Kern County. However, many companies have discussed expanding fracking practices to a particular area in Central California. Recent technological advancements in fracking have spurred oil companies to extract oil from reserves that were previously deemed uneconomical. The Monterey Shale formation located in the San Joaquin Valley measures 1,750 square miles. The U.S. Energy Department estimates that the formation may hold the largest deep-shale oil reserves in the world. The estimated 15.4 billion barrels of oil that may be in the formation would be enough to supply the United States for more than two years.

A report produced by the University of Southern California notes that extracting the oil from the Monterey Shale formation could create 500,000 to 2.8 million jobs by 2020, and add $4.5B to $24.6B to state and local tax revenue.

The new law (SB4) can be read in its entirety here.

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