Rediscovered as an oil/gas industry practice that hasn't been high on California's radar, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is taking on a higher profile among state and local elected officials as the state's legislature considers a new law (AB 591) that would require operators to disclose chemicals they use in the fracking process.
The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Tuesday will begin examining AB 591, which was passed (50-23) by the lower house Assembly earlier in June. Separately last week, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors began discussing whether to regulate fracking in their jurisdiction, which includes both onshore and offshore oil and gas production.
An official with the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) appeared at the county officials' meeting, offering assurances that fracking can be done without causing harm to the environment or drinking water supplies. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) similarly has provided support for the industry practice.
Both industry organizations are in discussions with AB 591's principal author, Northern California Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski. A spokesperson for the state legislator told NGI's Shale Daily Monday that despite the fact that industry groups still oppose the bill they may eventually support it.
"The members have had several talks with WSPA and CIPA, so I think they are pretty close," Wieckowski's spokesperson said. "I do think they are still in opposition, but the talks have gone pretty well."
California supporters of AB 591 are describing it as among the most stringent fracking laws proposed in the nation. "We need to exercise proper oversight into what is being injected in these wells," said Wieckowski, citing the need to protect drinking water from increased risks.
WSPA's spokesperson has told reporters in the state that the industry organization is "a little surprised that there's this sudden interest and focus" on what they consider a non issue. WSPA and CIPA emphasize that there has been no contamination of groundwater used for drinking water.
Under the proposed law the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources would be given increased regulatory powers, requiring operators to provide a list of chemical constituents used in their fracturing fluid. It also would require a history of the drilling of each well "to include certain information regarding the amount and source of water used in the exploration or production from the well and the radiological components or tracers injected into the well."
The information "should be disclosed so that the environmental impacts of this technique can be properly considered and addressed," according to a resolution of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which is one of several local government supporters of AB 591.