For the first time in state history, California will now regulate and track the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as "fracking."
The state's new regulations follow an NBC Bay Area investigation into the widespread use of the practice to get at oil deep underground throughout California.
Investigative reporter Stephen Stock broke that story almost a year ago.
Though fracking has been going on in California in some form or another for five decades, Tuesday state regulators formally announced that for the first time ever, they will directly regulate and track the practice.
According to draft regulations put out by California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) all oil and gas companies that plan to use underground hydraulic fracturing to get at oil will have to:
1. Pre-test the wells that they plan to use
2. Give the state 10 day notice before they begin fracking...
3. Have to provide specific information about fracking well locations, depth and types of chemicals used
4. Give state regulators 24 hours advance notice to allow them to witness the fracking operation.
Under the new regulations the state will also use the information provided by industry to publish the locations publicly at least three days before the fracking operations begin.
That information will be published by DOGGR on a privately run website called FracFocus.
There will be an exception under ‘trade secrets” which will allow companies to withhold certain information about the types of chemicals used in their unique hydraulic fracturing techniques. However, in a case of health concerns or an emergency, local doctors and state regulators will be able to access the list of those chemicals, even under the trade secret provision.
But at least one environmental group says these regulations don't go far enough.
The Center for Biological Diversity says companies will be able to avoid any significant and meaningful reporting under the trade secrets provision of the new regulations.
A spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity went as far as to say these regulations are worse than doing nothing at all.
DOGGR officials will now hold more public hearings to get input on all these regulations.
DOGGR will then conduct an administrative review and make any changes depending on input from industry, environmentalists and the public.
Officials say that process will likely take at least a year before these final regulations are adopted and they take effect.
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