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California Sets Interagency Review on Well Stimulation Report

A scientific assessment of well stimulation in California that drew differing reactions when released earlier this month will be subjected to the further scrutiny of an interagency working group created Wednesday by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), which heads up water-related issues involved in oil/natural gas well stimulation practices, announced the creation of the group and its mandate to "fully consider" the findings and recommendations of the 858-page independent review (see Shale Daily, July 10). The group will begin meeting later this month.

Generally, industry groups viewed the report as an important milestone of third-party verification that fracking has done no harm and can be used safely, while environmental groups stressed the report's references to unknown risks, and the need for more study and safer practices. They argued that the conclusions came down against fracking and other well stimulation practices.

The group will "carefully review the conclusions and recommendations of an independent scientific assessment" that the California Council on Science and Technology and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory completed as part of the state's well stimulation law (SB 4) passed two years ago, according to a state resources agency spokesperson (see Shale Daily, Sept. 23, 2013).

While examining everything from fracking to acid well stimulation and how they could impact the environment, the scientific review also identified various "knowledge gaps" and alternative practices that could avoid or mitigate these possible impacts," the spokesperson said.

State officials indicated that among the issues for the interagency group to tackle are:

  • Oil/gas development record-keeping;
  • Disclosure and use of chemicals;
  • Water generated from hydraulically fractured wells;
  • Induced seismicity from the drilling techniques; and
  • Monitoring of toxic air contaminants and health risks.

Nine state agencies have been tapped for the interagency review working group: CNRA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Public Health, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Department of Toxic Substances Control, California Air Resources Board, Department of Conservation, which includes the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, and the Department of Industrial Relations.

Noting that California has some of the nation's more stringent environmental protections for oil/gas activities, Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird said the group "will meet with scientists to fully understand their findings and concerns and develop recommendations for appropriate regulatory or legislative changes as needed."

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