On June 13, the California Department of Conservation released proposed regulations for oil and gas production activities in the state. The draft rules are being issued pursuant to legislation passed last year. They would replace interim rules that have been in place since the beginning of the year. The regulations, which are now subject to a 45-day notice and comment period, apply to production activities on both land and water.
If approved, the draft rules would introduce new requirements addressing a wide-range of fracking-related issues. For instance, the regulations introduce new standards for calculating the amount of acid used in wells, shifting from a concentration-based measurement system to a volume-based threshold. Oil and gas producers also would be subject to more rigorous notification and monitoring obligations. The rules call for drillers to provide written notice, in both Spanish and English, to adjacent landowners, informing them of their right to have local waters tested prior to and following drilling operations. Moreover, drillers would be obligated to monitor seismic activity at well sites while fracking activities are in progress and for 10 days after production ends. Any earthquakes at a site registering at 2.0 or higher on the Richter scale would need to be reported to the state.
California’s Conservation Department released the proposed rules in response to nearly 150,000comments it received concerning similar draft regulations released last year. Department Director Mark Nechodom explained, “There are significant differences between the version [of the rules] released last November and this revised version, thanks in no small part to some helpful recommendations received during the initial public input process, as well as extensive consultation with other regulatory agencies.”
Oil and gas industry interest groups have come out in support of the revised regulations. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, said the rules appear “to be in line with the conservation department’s . . . commitment to transparency and collaboration with the industry and the public.”