California releases draft rules for regulating fracking
Jerry Brown, the once-and-current king (governor) of California, yesterday announced a draft proposal for regulating fracking. Because if there’s one thing California needs, it’s more fissures beneath it. And/or more earthquakes.
Though that’s not the tack Brown took. From the L.A. Times:
The proposed rules, released Tuesday, would require energy companies to disclose for the first time the chemicals they inject deep into the ground to break apart rock and release oil. They also would have to reveal the location of the wells where they use the procedure.
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 drinking water contamination.
I mean, nothing about the earthquakes? Well, you’re the governor.
Oil pumps near I-5.
The region that has oil companies salivating is the Monterey Shale, a stretch of rock running from Modesto through the Central Valley of the state, which some think could contain 300 billion barrels of oil. At today’s per-barrel price, that’s $26.4 trillion dollars sitting under a bunch of walnut groves and cattle ranches.
But California has a … complicated relationship with fossil fuel extractors, dating back to Daniel Plainview’s New Boston strike. It’s been the first (and only) state to enact a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions, and voters defended that plan, overcoming millions in oil company funding. Also, California votes Democrat about 90-to-10 (except Southern California).
So you can see the friction. It’s like the San Andreas fault of politics: Big Oil versus the State of California. Even with this draft proposal, there are concerns that the state isn’t creating friction enough.
Environmental and industry groups said the draft regulations were a good first step in what is expected to be a lengthy rule-making process. But environmentalists signaled a coming fight over the level of disclosure, noting a provision that would allow oil companies to withhold disclosure of chemicals they claim to be proprietary. …
A recent analysis by Bloomberg News found that companies nationwide withheld from their disclosure reports one out of every five chemicals they used in fracking.
The “lengthy rule-making process” can’t happen fast enough. As the Times notes, a federal auction last week in Sacramento leased nearly 18,000 acres of shale land in 10 minutes.
And, not to beat a dead horse here, but the state really might want to consider that it is riddled with geological faults — not in the Central Valley, to be sure, but even there earthquakes occur. Especially if you start breaking apart rock and injecting fluids to make it slip around more. And what about already-leak-prone wastewater disposal wells lined with cement? The U.S. Geological Survey suggests that there is a 62 percent chance the Bay Area will see a 6.7-or-stronger quake by 2032. The odds that a major earthquake won’t have ripples 100 miles away near Modesto are slim.
Just something to think about. Good luck with the rule-making process. Try and beef it up. And, if you can, try to get it done before 2032.
California issues proposed rules for ‘fracking’, Los Angeles Times
Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.
Also in Grist