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California moves closer to fracking ban

May 13, 2013
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California appears to be on the verge of formally forbidding hydraulic fracturing, as three bills are currently going through the state's legislature on banning operations until fracking has been found to be safe.

California appears to be on the verge of formally forbidding hydraulic fracturing, as three bills are currently going through the state's legislature on banning operations until fracking has been found to be safe, Quartz reported.

The three bills are among a group of nine pieces of legislation that are under consideration regarding drilling operations in the Monterey Shale, which is considered to be the largest reserve of its kind in the United States and has been estimated to hold 15.4 billion barrels of oil. It is impossible to reach these reserves through conventional drilling and fracking could be the only option to extract the oil within the formation.

California is the fourth largest producer of oil in the United States but also has the most rigid environmental laws. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has so far remained largely unregulated, which has triggered opposition amid concerns over its impact on waterways and wildlife. However, the state is moving closer to passing legislation on the matter, as well as planning to pass new laws for oil and gas operations in the state. If the bills are passed, they might result in the strictest fracking regulation in the United States yet.

One of the new rules would require companies to inform authorities about their intention to start drilling before operations actually begin and to disclose the location of wells and the chemicals used in fracking fluid. Two months ago similar regulation was introduced relating to the type and amounts of air pollutants emitted during fracking.

RELATED: Half of US fracking wells located in water-stressed areas

Another hurdle to fracking operations was put in place last month, when a federal judge decided that the US Bureau of Land Management had illegally approved leases for drilling on government-owned land in California without previously carrying out detailed research on the potential environmental impacts of fracking. According to an oil industry trade group, 27 percent of the 2,300 new wells drilled in the state in 2011 involved fracking.

The biggest attention is on Senate Bill 4 (SB4), presented by Sen. Fran Pavley, who also took part in the writing of California's 2006 global warming law. If approved, SB4 would mean that no drilling permits would be issued until a scientific study on the potential effect of fracking on the environment has been completed. This would also involve testing of water to make sure that drilling operations have no effect on the quality of drinking water in communities near wells.

Another major concern over fracking is its impact on water supply. California is already challenged in terms of water because of declining snow packs. That is why another bill, AB649, would ban the use of fresh water in fracking as well as drilling near aquifers.

In response, the oil and gas industry claims that the proposed legislation in California would end the fracking boom before it has even begun.

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