Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, today announced several key amendments to her bill to regulate the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for oil and gas within California.
The changes come in the wake of extensive input from stakeholder groups and the public, as well as analysis of other states’ policies. On Feb. 12, Pavley led a nearly six-hour informational hearing on fracking which included detailed testimony from state agencies, industry and environmental groups.
The legislation, Senate Bill 4, is motivated by the public’s right to know about fracking. It requires companies to obtain a state-issued permit to frack, and to notify neighboring property owners 30 days ahead of time. It also says they must disclose to the state all of the chemicals they use to frack in a particular location. The bill allows industry to claim trade secret protection for chemicals under specific circumstances.
“There is an emerging national consensus on the basic assurances the public needs around fracking operations,” said Pavley. “From chemical disclosure, to notification, to water quality monitoring and an independent health study, this legislation brings the transparency and accountability needed in order to protect our air and water supply.”
The draft fracking regulations delivered by the administration’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) on December 18 represent a step in the right direction. They provide for advance public notice, and significant rules to enhance monitoring of wells both before and after fracking. These are the first systematic fracking-specific regulations developed by an administration in California history. The initial version of SB 4 was introduced before these draft regulations came out.
However, some other states have gone even further. For instance, on December 20, the state of Alaska issued their own proposed regulations, requiring pre-approval of fracking operations, notification of nearby landowners and well operators, and substantial groundwater monitoring.
“The public demands the right to know where fracking is occurring and what chemicals are being used,” said Ventura Supervisor Steve Bennett, who also testified at the hearing. “I applaud Pavley’s leadership on restoring the public’s confidence in government by mandating fracking disclosure and assuring that new state regulations on fracking are adopted.”
Key changes to SB 4 include:
* Authorization. Drillers must obtain a permit for fracking a well. The permit application will include information about the planned fracking job including the chemicals and amount of water to be used.
* Notice. Along with the right to be notified 30 days in advance, property owners can have regional water boards test well and surface water before and after fracking.
* Public safety. The state must complete an independent scientific study on fracking by January 1, 2015. This report must include assessments of public and environmental health and safety. No fracking permits could be approved after this date if the scientific study is not completed.
* Transparency. Requires the state to develop its own web-site for fracking fluid reporting by January 1, 2016. Until then, the Fracfocus.org web-site could be used, as specified in DOGGR’s draft regulations.
* Monitoring. The existing industry production fee on drilling operations would be modified to specifically include costs associated with fracking, including air and water quality monitoring, as well as the scientific study. Regulators would be required to perform spot checks to ensure that the fracking information provided by companies is accurate. By January 1, 2015, the administration would also be required to issue its final regulations, and to enter into formal agreements with water boards and other regulators in order to specify responsibilities around air and water monitoring.
* The revised bill retains reporting requirements to ensure the state gathers sufficient information in order to understand the scope and extent of fracking in California, including the amount of water used and waste disposal methods. It also keeps provisions allowing for health professionals and others to obtain trade secret information if necessary.
“The rules within SB 4 are merely the kind of common-sense protections needed for any potentially hazardous industrial activity, let alone one that is rapidly expanding in our state,” said Pavley. “While the industry correctly notes that fracking has been going on in California for 60 years, many of the techniques and chemicals are new, as is the immense scale of many of these operations.”
Fran Pavley represents California’s 27th Senate District, which includes about half of the Santa Clarita Valley.