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Volunteers? California Regulators Request Fracking Information

The California Department of Conservation (DOC) is requesting that oil and natural gas operators voluntarily disclose where they are using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for their drilling operations and what chemicals are being used in the process. Meanwhile, the state legislature has reintroduced a proposal to require the drilling information, which already has been enacted by several states across the country and is being voluntarily disclosed by many of the biggest operators in the shale business (see Shale Daily, March 30).

New DOC Director Mark Nechodom, a former U.S. Agriculture Department senior adviser, was lambasted late last month by state lawmakers who complained about an apparent lack of state information and regulations on fracking.

State regulators have tried to assuage officials that existing laws protect California's water supplies, and industry groups have encouraged members to post fracking information on the national registry FracFocus (www.fracfocus.org), which was created by the national Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

The house Assembly's resources subcommittee recently tabled a request to budget for an additional 18 positions at DOC. However, Nechodom noted that monitoring the state's energy industry would require a larger workforce than the one currently in place at DOC. He told lawmakers that in December when he was appointed to head DOC he was surprised that there were no specific state regulations covering fracking, but he sees it as "a common procedure" in wells statewide.

The DOC chief said California's geology makes drilling inherently safer than drilling in the Rocky Mountain or northeastern states, but if California lawmakers want more information, more inspectors are needed in the gas and oilfields. "The industry outguns us in information by orders of magnitude, with its 3-D modeling," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration reportedly is working on a statewide "listening" tour to gather public comment on fracking. The governor also plans to meet with industry and environmental representatives and tour some fracking sites.

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