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California should tighten fracking regulations, report says

April 11, 2013|By Bettina Boxall
  • A rig in western Colorado drills for natural gas that will be released using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. A UC Berkeley report says California needs to strengthen regulation of the technique, which has been used for decades in the state.
A rig in western Colorado drills for natural gas that will be released using… (Brennan Linsley / Associated…)

California needs to strengthen regulation of hydraulic fracturing, according to a UC Berkeley Law School report that identified a number of shortcomings in state oversight of the controversial practice.   

Known as fracking, the technique involves the high-pressure injection of chemical-laced fluids into the ground to crack rock formations and extract oil and gas. Although not new to California, the practice has come under increasing scrutiny recently as states such as Pennsylvania and New York experience a boom in fracking.

Environmental concerns center around potential groundwater contamination from fracking fluids and disposal of saline wastewater.

The report, released Thursday by the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, says that new technology could dramatically increase fracking activity in California and warns that state regulators are not equipped to handle that.

“Hydraulic fracturing presents risks to our environment and human health, and must be properly regulated and controlled. This report identifies several areas where the state’s knowledge base and existing regulatory scheme are deficient,” the authors wrote.

The document, released as state regulators are developing new fracking regulations and a number of fracking bills are under consideration in the Legislature, contains a number of recommendations for beefing up state oversight. Among them:

  • Oil and gas companies should be required to provide state regulators with at least 30 days' advance notice of hydraulic fracturing activity.
  • Energy companies should be required to disclose to the state the formula of fracking chemicals now protected as trade secrets.
  • The state should adopt more stringent requirements for testing well integrity before fracking activity and for monitoring during the process.
  • Fracking fluid injections should be prohibited in the vicinity of risky earthquake faults.
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