State Considers Regulating Fracking, Officials Come to Salinas
June 25, 2012
The oil and gas industry's dearly held practice of keeping much information, including the contents of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, to itself, may be coming to an end on certain federal lands.
State and federal officials are collecting reams of public input to decide how, and whether, to regulate the practice known as "fracking." It's in wide use by the industry, and allows access to deposits held tightly within rock by injecting fluid under high pressure into rock, forming narrow fissures that allow trapped oil and gas to flow freely.
But questions have surfaced around a host of environmental concerns, and regulators appear to be settling on disclosure as the issue they may control.
But it after Congressional probe to find out that millions of gallons of diesel had been injected into subsurface rocks across the country.
The 2005 Energy Bill exempted mostly water-based fracking fluids—generally considered by the industry to be proprietary—from disclosure to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The exception, though, is diesel.
It took a Congressional probe to reveal millions of gallons of diesel fuel had been injected into wells across the country from 2005 to 2009, including 26,466 gallons in California, without appropriate EPA permits.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent its findings to the EPA in January 2011.
Now, regulators and legislators are considering how to regulate fracking.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will announce Tuesday an extension on public comments regarding a proposed disclosure rule when it comes to fracking fluids.
"As the Obama administration continues to offer millions of acres of America's public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place," BLM Director Mike Pool said in a statement.
Leasing sub-surface mineral rights also makes BLM a rare government revenue-generator, and BLM expects to generate $5.7 billion this year, well in excess of its $1.1 billion budget. BLM recently leased out rights in South Monterey County to deposits likely accessible just by fracking.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is responding to public concern as well as direction from Gov. Jerry Brown's office and studying the practice.
DOGGR officials are traversing the state's major oil-producing areas to hear public comment as they determine the scope for potential regulations on fracking. Their travels bring them to Salinas Wednesday night.
"There is significant oil production in southern Monterey County, so [DOGGR] judged there might be interest in the topic," spokesman Don Drysdale writes by email.
DOGGR anticipates draft rules will be out this fall, at which time the public will again have opportunity to comment.
The California Department of Conservation's workshop on fracking takes place from 7-9pm Wednesday at the Santa Lucia Room in the Steinbeck Institute, 940 N. Main St., Salinas. Members of the public can send comments to email@example.com.
To submit comments to BLM, visit www.regulations.gov.>