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California Releases Fracking Regulations Six Months Before Studies Are Complete

“California has essentially reversed the regulatory process when it comes to fracking,” said Jackie Pomeroy, spokesperson for CAFrackFacts. “State regulators have finalized California’s fracking rules a full six months before any of the mandated scientific studies have been completed.”

Tribal representatives from throughout California converged at the State Capitol in Sacramento to oppose fracking on March 15, 2014. (Photo by Dan Bacher)

Governor Jerry Brown continued to live up to his reputation as “Big Oil Brown” with his administration’s release of the finalized text of the state’s regulations for fracking and well stimulation on Tuesday, December 30.

Although Senate Bill 4, passed in September 2013, requires California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to complete an environmental impact report and approve an independent scientific study, “neither one of those documents were ready in time to inform the final rules,” according to a news release from CAFrack Facts.

“California has essentially reversed the regulatory process when it comes to fracking,” said Jackie Pomeroy, spokesperson for CAFrackFacts. “State regulators have finalized California’s fracking rules a full six months before any of the mandated scientific studies have been completed. Given the long-term and potentially irreversible impacts of fracking and well stimulation, it is critical that we make policy decisions based on science—unfortunately, the current timeline makes this impossible.”

Pomeroy noted that in contrast to California, New York recently decided to continue its moratorium on fracking after concluding that the practice poses unknown risks to human health and safety.

After his team spent several years and over 4,500 hours reviewing scientific research, New York’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Howard Zucker, declared that, “there are questions that remain unanswered from lack of scientific analysis, specifically longitudinal studies of [fracking].”

He concluded, “Would I live in a community with [fracking] based on the facts that I have now? Would I let my child play in a school field nearby? After looking at the plethora of reports behind me … my answer is no.”

“New York is the first state to put the science before the politics and come to a conclusion based on the weight of the evidence,” explains Seth B.C. Shonkoff, Executive Director of PSE Healthy Energy. “The decision is a clear example of how bringing scientific transparency to the issue – highlighting what we know and don’t know – is an important component of responsible energy policy decision making.”

Although the regulations have been finalized, they will not go into effect until July 1st due to delays in coordinating multiple agencies.

For more information on California’s fracking regulations.

Jerry Brown, once known as “Governor Moonbeam” for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, transformed himself into “Big Oil Brown” during his third administration. He will be inaugurated in his fourth term as Governor on January 5, 2015.

Big Oil strongly supported the amended version of Senate Bill 4, the green light to fracking bill, that Brown signed in September 2013. Just ask Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, who praised the governor’s signing of Senate Bill 4 for creating the “environmental” platform to expand fracking in California.

In her most recent blog post, “When It Comes To Fracking Regulations, California Is Not New York,” Reheis-Boyd again lauds Senate Bill 4:

“Sacramento can draw helpful lessons from Albany’s ill-conceived decision. A ban on hydraulic fracturing would put a strain on California’s economic growth, place jobs at risk, and force communities to miss out on billions in state and local tax revenue.”

Thankfully, California has already taken significant steps to regulate hydraulic fracturing, ensuring environmental protection and community safety while balancing the need to prepare for tomorrow’s energy future. Senate Bill 4, signed in 2013, requires mandatory public disclosure of all chemicals used, well integrity testing before and after hydraulic fracturing, regular testing of nearby drinking water sources, development of groundwater management plans, an independent science-based study of hydraulic fracturing, and the development of a comprehensive, statewide environmental impact report.

Senate Bill 4 represents California’s commitment to lead the nation in environmental protection and climate change initiatives. Senate Bill 4’s efforts to closely regulate – but not prohibit — hydraulic fracturing also demonstrate California’s commitment to grow and nurture the world’s 8th largest economy and the central role fossil fuels will play in our state’s future.”

The WSPA president’s praise for California fracking regulations doesn’t inspire much confidence in the effectiveness of these rules. The Western States Petroleum Association is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento and has spent $31,179,039 since January 1, 2009 to lobby against anti-fracking measures and California’s environmental laws, according to a report written by Will Barrett, the Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California.

Besides supporting the expansion of fracking in California, Governor Brown has also rushed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build two massive tunnels under the Delta, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history; presided over record water exports at the Delta pumps in 2011; pushed water policies that have driven Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, Central Valley salmon and other fish populations to the edge of extinction; and implemented the oil industry lobbyist-overseen “marine protected areas” created under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

For an in-depth review of Governor Brown’s environmental record.

What is fracking? Fracking is an unconventional oil and gas extraction process that involves injecting fluids into the ground at high pressure, according to CAFrackFacts. Although it varies by project, the fluids generally include a mixture of water, sand and hundreds of different chemicals, including benzene and hydrofluoric acid. This high-pressure injection creates fractures in rock formations where oil and gas is trapped. The fractures—held open by grains of sand in the fracking fluid—enable oil and gas to be released and pulled to the surface.

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