Discussion about fracking and reporting is being hotly debated.
There is no doubt about the huge potential of the Monterey Shale with over 400 billion barrels of oil, which is almost half the conventional oil of Saudi Arabia. Given the difficult geological conditions, 15 billion barrels might be recoverable with today’s technology. This is a huge number that has attracted the attention of the oil and gas industry. A potential oil boom would have a considerable impact on jobs and also positively affect the state’s budget deficit. However, there is also an intense discussion about the required technology, hydraulic fracturing. Some environmental groups strongly oppose fracking, pointing out e.g. the risk of groundwater contamination and use of carcinogenic chemicals. Movies like Promised Land or Gasland have drawn the public’s attention to the topic and heated up the debate for this new technology.
Hydraulic fracturing means the high-pressure injection of a mix of fluids and substances to fracture the reservoir rock, which allows oil or natural gas to flow to the well. This method has been used in California for more than 30 years, but the state has previously lacked a specific set of guidelines for how to deal with fracking. The Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) now released a discussion draft of new regulations in December, imposing requirements for e.g. safety measures, handling of wastewater, monitoring and public release of information about each well that is fracked, such as the makeup of injected fluids. The draft mostly goes along the lines of existing best practices and is therefore likely not to cause much objection by the oil and gas industry. On the other side, environmentalists are very concerned that these regulations won’t go far enough and will leave much in the dark, since e.g. the regulations provide some protection for trade secrets.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) which regulates air quality in most of Southern California is preparing a regulation to require notification and reporting prior to drilling, well completion, or rework of oil or gas wells in the SCAQMD air district. The proposed regulation, Rule 1148.2, is drawing enormous debate due to the same set of issues in the DOGGR proposed rule.
California’s new oil rush