On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed new legislation to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The law—which is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014—is California’s first comprehensive regulation of fracturing activity in the state’s Monterey Shale deposit, which is estimated to hold approximately 15.4 billion barrels of oil.
State Senator Fran Pavley—author of the bill, known as SB 4—called the new law “a first step toward greater transparency, accountability and protection of the public and the environment.”
Among other things the law will require:
- Permits for well stimulation activities, including “acidizing” (the use of chemicals to dissolve shale beneath the surface)
- Notification of neighboring communities of hydraulic fracturing
- Public disclosure of chemicals used in well stimulation activities
- Groundwater and air quality monitoring
- An independent scientific study of the impact of well stimulation activities on the environment
Notably, the law does not include a proposed “moratorium” on fracking, similar to one adopted in New York.
The new law has drawn criticism from both environmental groups and the oil industry. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western State Petroleum Association, stated publicly that the new legislation “could create conditions that will make it difficult to continue to provide a reliable supply of domestic petroleum energy for California.” In particular, the oil industry has raised issues with the chemical disclosure requirements, arguing that the law will require them to divulge trade secrets.
Environmental groups likewise lamented the new law, arguing that amendments to the original language resulted in significantly less protection for the environment. Kathryn Phillips, director of California’s Sierra Club, called Governor Brown’s action “disappointing.”
In his signing message, however, Governor Brown described the law as establishing “strong environmental protections and transparency requirements for hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation operations.” The governor also said that the bill would require “some clarifying amendments” that he would work with the legislature to enact in the coming year.