LOS ANGELES--California oil and gas regulators released draft
regulations Dec. 18 on hydraulic fracturing activities.
The release of the draft regulations does not launch an official rulemaking
process, according to the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas, and
Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). Rather, it begins a public discussion of the
nine-page document in preparation for the formal rulemaking that will probably
begin in early 2013, the agency said.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping water, sand, and
chemicals into shale formations at high pressure to enhance oil and natural gas
Environmental groups and others concerned about the expanded use of the
process in California and elsewhere are pressing federal and state regulators
for aggressive controls to prevent environmental harm, particularly to
underground water supplies.
The proposed regulations would “spell out what you need to do when you engage
in hydraulic fracturing,” Jason Marshal, chief deputy director of the Department
of Conservation, told reporters on a conference call.
Posted on DOGGR's website, the proposed rules would set standards for
pre-fracturing testing to ensure wells and cement casings can withstand the high
pressures. Other provisions would require 10-day notice to state regulators;
monitoring during and after fracturing operations; and disclosure of well
locations and chemicals used to FracFocus.org. The rules also would clarify
state law and regulations on the handling and storage of fracturing fluids.
Chemicals deemed “trade secrets” would only have to be publicly disclosed in
the event of a spill or accidental release, as needed for an emergency response
or for medical treatments.
Much of the proposal repurposes existing standards that apply to construction
of oil and gas wells to ensure the cement casings would adequately prevent
chemicals and other pollutants from tainting underground water supplies.
DOGGR is not proposing to require hydraulic fracturing-specific permits,
Marshall said. The draft regulations are consistent with current state oil and
gas regulations, which focus on the construction of the wells and the various
activities related to the wells, Marshall said.
Much of the proposal focuses on ensuring the integrity of the cement casings,
which would protect underground water supplies, during and after the fracking
activities and when wells are used store wastewater.
One provision that would be unique to California is the requirement for
evaluation of wells near the hydraulic fracturing operations.
Fracking has been used in California for decades, mostly for the recovery of
oil, not natural gas. While state regulators and industry claim the state's
rules governing oil and gas drilling are adequately protective, the state has
never required disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking or the location of
In a written statement, the Center for Biological Diversity said the draft
regulations “do little to protect the state's environment, wildlife, climate and
“California faces huge environmental risks unless state officials halt this
dangerous fracking boom,” Kassie Siegal, an attorney for the center said.
The proposed regulations lack measures to protect people living nearby from
harmful air pollutants and toxic wastewater, nor do they require the capture of
methane, a potent greenhouse gas, the center said. Other flaws in the proposal
give well operators a “trade secrets” loophole to avoid reporting dangerous
chemicals and fail to require public notification of fracking activities.
DOGGR does not have authority to adopt air pollution and water quality
measures for hydraulic fracturing activities, the Department of Conservation's
Marshall said. Those measures would have to be addressed by other state and
local regulators, he said.
The agency said it plans to schedule several public workshops prior to
launching the formal rulemaking process.
By Carolyn Whetzel
The proposed regulations and related materials are available at