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California Begins Environmental Review on Fracking Rules

California energy officials on Tuesday began a series of five public meetings to take comments on the scope of the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the state's new rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) under a state law (SB 4) passed earlier this year (see Shale Daily, Sept. 23).

A spokesperson for the state Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), which is hosting the meetings in Oakland, said they are aimed at gaining input from local governments, public agencies, organizations and individuals.

This initial input will help drive the scope and content of the eventual EIR, and once it is available in draft form, another round of public comments will be taken. In addition, SB 4 requires that DOGGR separately obtain comments on proposed fracking rules that were released in November (see Shale Daily, Nov. 15).

Conservation Department Director Mark Nechohom said the EIR draft and proposed fracking regulations are related but on separate review paths. "We will have separate meetings and other methods for the public to comment on these distinct processes; both are important," said Nechohom.

In the ongoing EIR scoping meetings, the state is seeking public input on what the EIR should address with respect to impacts from existing and future well stimulation activities, he said.

"[People] should be aware that comments on the EIR scope are not comments on regulations, and vice versa," said Nechohom.

Ultimately, the EIR should address all the environmental factors specified in the California Environmental Quality Act, including land-use planning, aesthetics, air quality, noise and wildlife impacts, the spokesperson said. The state must certify the EIR by July 1, 2015.

Sessions are scheduled to be held in Sacramento (Wednesday), Bakersfield (Thursday), Ventura (Jan. 8) and Long Beach (Jan. 9).

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