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California Fracking Rules Made Final, Effective July 1

California's new rules covering well stimulation, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), completed the state's regulatory process last Tuesday and will become effective July 1.

Based on a state law passed two years ago (SB 4), the well stimulation treatment regulations run 28 pages as part of the state's regulations governing the development, regulation and conservation of oil/natural gas resources. The new rules will be enforced by the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR).

Oil/gas industry associations have basically supported the state process while saying that the new rules will "impose a new level of cost and regulatory burden." Producers will have to evaluate whether or not these additional costs can be absorbed into their production budgets, said Tupper Hull, the spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA).

There also are several remaining issues, particularly those that pertain to the ground water management issues contained in SB 4, that still have to be worked out," said Hull, adding, however, that WSPA is happy the process is now complete and "we now have a path forward that will allow energy producers to use technologies that have proven to be safe and effective over the past several decades."

On Tuesday, the state Office of Administrative Law approved and filed the final rules with the California Secretary of State's Office. In the text, well stimulation practices are defined according to SB 4 to include fracking and other treatments that increase the flow of oil and gas to wells and eventually to the surface for recovery.

The state took public comments on various iterations of the draft rules over a 12-month period, during which interim rules applied to well stimulation activity in the state (see Shale Daily, Oct. 10, 2014; Dec. 12, 2013).

DOGGR's implementation is following detailed steps outlined in SB 4. "We've been developing these regulations -- designed to protect health, safety and the environment -- since May 2012," said state Oil Gas Supervisor Steven Bohlen. "They take into account extensive input from the public [including industry] and other regulatory agencies."

Bohlen said the new rules are complementary to "strong well construction standards" already in place throughout California. A copy of the new regulations is available at the Department of Conservation/DOGGR website.

As part of the state's definition of well stimulation treatment, the rules state that the practice may include more than one well stimulation treatment fluid. "Well stimulation treatment fluids include, but are not limited to, hydraulic fracturing fluids and acid stimulation treatment fluids."

The final rules include sections covering well stimulation treatment requirements and application for permits; neighboring property owner notification; water testing requests from neighboring property owners; monitoring during treatment, along with seismic monitoring/evaluation in the vicinity of any fracking; storage/handling of well stimulation treatment fluids and wastes; and public disclosures of chemicals used.

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