California’s preliminary state agency-drafted rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have been targeted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has criticized state regulators as being in “denial” of potential harmful environmental impacts of fracking.

“Currently state officials and the public have no way of knowing when or where energy companies are using fracking, a widespread and potentially risky drilling technology that involves injecting huge volumes of chemical-laced water into the ground under intense pressure to break up rock formations and release trapped oil and natural gas,” EWG said in reaction to the state Department of Conservation releasing preliminary draft rules for fracking (see Shale Daily, Dec. 21).

EWG officials said they have not had time to thoroughly review the draft document, but a “quick review” revealed some positive features as well as “potentially serious negatives in the path the agency is taking.” EWG Government Affairs Director Bill Allayaud said the early release of some draft rules is an important milestone in developing California’s first rules aimed at fracking. “EWG welcomes the agency’s continued effort to keep the public involved as it develops its regulations.”

Allayaud said the requirements for reporting plans for fracking, locations and chemicals to be used are “basic necessities” to remove any of what he thinks can be “secrecy” surrounding the drilling practice. Nevertheless, he listed at least five “serious concerns” that EWG has regarding the initial draft rules. They include:

In an earlier investigation of fracking, EWG alleged that the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has no clear idea how extensive the practice of fracking has been in the state, although state officials have insisted that it has been used relatively little.

At this early stage of the preliminary draft rules, Jason Marshall, the chief deputy director of the conservation department, said the draft rules reflect parts of similar rules adopted by various states, but overall they would go beyond those requirements.