California brings in tough regulations against fracking

The toughest US restrictions to regulate the controversial oil drilling technique fracking were signed into law by California governor Jerry Brown yesterday, Los Angeles Times reported.

The measure strongly opposed by the oil industry, "establishes strong environmental protections and transparency requirements," the governor said in a statement, according to the report.

The issue with the technique is the injection of sand, water and chemicals to free oil and natural gas trapped in shale deep underground.

The oil industry claims the technique would help boost domestic oil and gas production; opponents point to safety issues  and endangering of underground drinking-water supplies.

According to senator Fran Pavley ( Democrat- Agoura Hills), the governor's signature, "is a first step toward greater transparency, accountability and protection of the public and the environment."

Her bill, SB 4, was the sole survivor of a half-dozen fracking proposals in the Legislature this year. The measure set to take effect from 1 January 2014, calls for notification of neighbours living near drilling, groundwater testing and a study of fracking's impact on the environment.

Under the bill, a related technique involving the shooting of acid solutions into wells to release hydrocarbons would also need to conform to a set of rules.

Oil industry voiced concerns about the regulations going further than they thought were necessary for safe drilling, in a muted reaction.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that though fracking had made it possible for oil companies to unlock California's vast Monterey Shale deposit, estimated to hold 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, environmentalists across the nation had decried the practice, saying that the chemicals used in the process polluted underground water supplies and caused other damage.

While, a moratorium on fracking had been instituted by New York, Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed a strict set of regulations into law in June, the report said.

In his signing statement, Brown, who favoured some level of fracking in the Monterey Shale, said he believed more changes would be necessary even as the law were to take effect next year.

Brown said, the bill needed some clarifying amendments, and he would work with the author in making those changes next year. He did not specify, however, what changes he wanted to make.

According to Pavley, oil companies would not be allowed to frack or acidise California unless they tested the groundwater, notified neighbours and listed each and every chemical on the internet.

Pavley added that this was a first step toward greater transparency, accountability and protection of the public and the environment.