State’s fracking rules aren’t tough

By From page A6 | January 09, 2014

Tom Elias’ columns are usually informative and well-written. His Dec. 24 piece, “Fracking rules must have merit,” however, is vague and misleading.
He describes the “new rules” as the “toughest set of fracking rules (in America).” Without identification, I’m guessing he’s referring to SB 4, widely criticized by environmental groups as extraordinarily weak and confusing in language. We are still awaiting the Division Oil, Gas, Geothermal Resources’ translation of SB 4 into regulations.
Tough, we aren’t. New Jersey banned the treatment or storage of fracking waste (New York Times, June 25, 2012). And New York state has an indefinite moratorium on fracking. That’s tough.
Industry, with DOGGR’s concurrence, argues that regulations should not be imposed until the environmental impact report, due July 15, 2015. How tough is that? A total of 1,250 new wells already have been fracked in California without any regulation and we still have 19 months of open season to go.
Elias states that oil companies will have to reveal where waste is eventually dumped. Wonderful, but what are the safeguards that the waste stays contained? What prevents drillers from walking away from spent wells and letting their containers rot? In 1987, the EPA reported 1.2 million abandoned gas/oil wells.

And do we have the state personnel and funds to monitor a powerful industry in pursuit of extracting every last bit of oil and successfully evading California’s oil extraction taxes?
The article reports that ground water basins will be monitored for drinking water safety. What does this mean?
What about methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases? Industry measures of methane leaks are approximately half of those reported by Cornell.
What about drilling in proximity to earthquake faults? We are learning from non-earthquake-prone states that fracking near seismically active areas triggers quakes. And not all earthquake faults are mapped.
These are just a few of the ways SB 4 is anything but adequate. Space limitations prevent further itemization.
“Gasland II” will be screened at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. in Davis, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday. There will be information/materials to send your comments on regulation to DOGGR. Send questions to [email protected].
Mary M. Zhu


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