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Brown Releases Proposed Rules for Fracking in California

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our California News page.

SACRAMENTO - The Brown administration has released much-anticipated proposed rules for fracking, a controversial technique for drilling for oil and natural gas reviled by environmentalists.

The process, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, sand and a mixture of chemicals into geological strata to free trapped hydrocarbons.

Supporters say that it is opening up a vast new energy source and creating high-paying jobs. Opponents contend that fracking could pollute underground drinking water supplies and cause health hazards.

Hailed by state officials as the toughest in the nation, the draft regulations issued Friday would require those who conduct fracking to get state permits, test groundwater quality and notify neighbors before starting work. The regulations cover fracking and related techniques, and they provide substantial new public information about where and how fracking is taking place.

"We believe that once these proposed regulations go into effect at the start of 2015, we will have in place the strongest environmental and public health protections of any oil- and gas-producing state in the nation, while also ensuring that a key element in California's economy can maintain its productivity," said Mark Nechodom, director of the state Department of Conservation.

California is the country's third-largest oil- and gas-producing state.

Environmentalists contend that fracking could pollute drinking water wells, endanger public health and release greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

What's needed now, they said, is a statewide ban on fracking and related techniques until scientists can provide firm assurances that the practice won't cause harm.

"We want a timeout," said Kathryn Phillips, state director of the Sierra Club. "At best, these regulations can be described as a mixed bag," she said. "At worst, they provide another example of an agency's continued deference to a regulated entity, even at the expense of public health and the environment."    
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