Residents in the Windsor Hills neighborhood of unincorporated L.A. County… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
SACRAMENTO -- California lawmakers will hold an oversight hearing next week to probe draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the controversial drilling process driving the nation's oil and gas boom.
Last year, oil regulators proposed rules that would for the first time require energy companies to disclose the chemicals they inject deep into the ground to break apart rock and release oil.
Lawmakers, however, have seized on a provision in the draft regulations that would allow oil companies to withhold disclosure of chemicals they claim to be proprietary. Mark Nechodom, director of the state Department of Conservation, has said regulators were trying to strike a balance between public transparency and the state's trade-secrets law
The proposed rules are the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy rule-making process. The hearing, set for Tuesday in the Capitol, will feature testimony from top oil regulators, water and environmental officials, local elected officials and representatives from the energy industry and environmental groups.
“I look forward to this opportunity to hear about both industry, environmental and community concerns with this rapidly growing yet under-examined practice,” said state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.
Though fracking has unlocked vast amounts of previously unreachable fossil fuels elsewhere, environmentalists and public health advocates in California have raised safety questions about the hundreds of chemicals used — many of them known carcinogens — and the potential for contamination of drinking water.
Energy firms say the technology is safe, arguing that they have used the process in the state for decades without incident.
The joint hearing of the Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Environmental Quality Committee is set for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4203 in the Capitol.
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