California Gov. Jerry Brown said last Friday that he plans to take a closer look at the oil/gas industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state, speaking at a renewable energy conference at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and to news media afterwards.

Brown said he was “studying” the procedure, talking to both industry and environmental representatives. He said he is planning to visit an oilfield in Kern County in the southern end of his state’s oil- and agricultural-rich San Joaquin Valley, where he will meet with both energy companies and environmentalists.

“I’ll be on top of [the issue],” Brown said in a report in the Los Angeles Times. He added that given the high stakes involved, he thinks the oil/gas industry is motivated to make sure no water supplies are polluted through the fracking process, noting that California’s “trial lawyers and very vigorous tort system” should promote “a certain amount of self-discipline” in applying the fracking system.

Last year a chemical disclosure bill was shot down in the final hours of the state legislature, but critics of fracking are attempting to rekindle interest in Sacramento (see Shale Daily, March 16). As he has focused on ways to create jobs and plug a gaping budget deficit, Brown has been criticized for shying away from the issue, fearing it could stymie growth in the energy sector.

Fracking has long been used in California’s oil and gas industry, and officials with the Western States Petroleum Association have assured lawmakers and the general public that it is not a threat to public health or the environment. But critics point to alleged findings of water contamination from fracking in other states, such as Wyoming and Pennsylvania.

Proposals now being reconsidered in the California legislature would address having oil/gas companies divulge the chemicals used, volumes of water and where fracking occurs. In response to news media questions on Friday, however, Brown declined to comment on any legislative proposals, the Times reported.

Brown said he has talked to industry sources about the use of fracking, and he characterized the feedback they gave as indicating that fracking is not as bad as its critics contend it is, but neither is it as benign as some industry advocates say it is.