Apr 17 2013

Mercury News: California bill would target fracking industry’s water use

SACRAMENTO — A bill regulating water use by oil producers cleared its first legislative test Monday night.

Authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, the bill would require companies to disclose the source and amounts of water used in production, including fracking. It also demands they get approval from state water regulators on how the water would be disposed.

“Fracking potentially exposes Californians’ water supply to toxic chemicals. Currently, there’s little governmental oversight to ensure that our groundwater supply doesn’t get contaminated by the large volume of toxic wastewater fracking produces,” Stone said.

The bill cleared the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee on a 6-3, party-line vote. It is one of several related to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, floating around the Capitol.

In addition, the state Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is weighing new fracking rules. The agency has scheduled several meetings around the state to take public input, including one April 30 in Monterey.

Several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club of California, have lined up behind Stone’s bill. Groups representing oil producers, including the California Independent Petroleum Association and the Western States Petroleum Association, are opposed.

“There are 11 or some ridiculous number of bills related to hydraulic fracking that have been introduced,” said Tupper Hull, a spokesman for Western States, saying the industry expects new regulations and that administrative rulemaking is the best approach.

“It’s just a more sensible and thoughtful way to approach this issue,” Hull said.

Most of the national attention on fracking has focused on North Dakota, where production has helped fuel an economic boom. But California — already the nation’s fourth-largest oil producing state — has 15 billion barrels of oil extractable only through fracking, dwarfing the rest of the country.

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