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California Fracking Rules: A Work in Progress

While Gov. Jerry Brown already has declared he will seek to fine-tune its provisions next year, California's new law (SB 4) regulating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) will not have final rules implemented for the industry to follow until 2015, although the law will be effective on Jan. 1 (see Shale DailySept. 24).

Brown has already directed the state Department of Conservation to develop a streamlined permitting process related to well stimulation activities, and the department's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) is in the midst of developing detailed draft fracking rules (see Shale DailySept. 9).

DOGGR will develop the regulations called for under SB 4, a spokesperson for the division told NGI's Shale Daily Tuesday, noting that his agency has been in close contact with the governor's office on the issue.

DOGGR early this year released what it described as "an information discussion draft" of fracking regulations, and some of those requirements were incorporated in SB 4's language, said the spokesperson. Nevertheless, the state department still needs to adopt comprehensive regulations to implement the new law," he said.

"These new regulations will include extensive protections for groundwater, which will be developed and implemented by the California Water Resources Control Board," the spokesperson said. SB 4 sets Jan.1, 2015 as the deadline for completing the regulations. "The department is well prepared to meet this deadline," he said.

"The new regulations will complement existing rules that require some of the strongest well construction and operation standards in the nation."

DOGGR expects its next major milestone to come before the end of this year when the formal draft regulations are released for future discussion.

On a parallel path, DOGGR is working with the governor's office to draft "clarifying amendments" that will be worked out next year with the state legislature.

"We're still in the process of going through the bill's language," said the spokesperson, noting that this will include figuring out next steps. When that is completed, he said the state agency will begin to "re-engage" various stakeholders, including the vocal (mostly environmental) groups opposed to the bill because they see it as too weak and accommodating to the industry.

Supporters of the bill, including the governor, have been touting it as one of the strongest pieces of legislation dealing with fracking in the nation.

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