California picks up controversial issue of fracking

July 17, 2013 9:03:55 PM PDT
America is producing more oil than ever, in part to new drilling techniques that use fracking -- a method of cracking the rock underground to release oil and gas. On Wednesday the state took up the controversial issue of fracking in California.

California drivers know gas prices are unpredictable. The oil industry says it has the answer and it's buried underneath what's called the Monterey Shale, a large geological formation that stretches hundreds of miles.

Potentially 15.5 billion barrels of oil, but a controversial drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may be needed to extract energy to the surface.

"If we could produce more of our oil domestically, we'd have a more secure supply of energy, and we should see much less volatility in the marketplace," said Tupper Hull from the Western States Petroleum Association.

Along with traditional drilling, fracking has already been going on in California for decades, which frees oil and gas from rock by injecting chemicals under high pressure into the ground.

"Hydraulic fracturing is not new," said Tim Kustic, from the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources.

But with a dramatic expansion about to get underway, state regulators are on the verge of writing new rules. After months of hearings, they'll soon answer how much public notice companies should give before work starts, where chemicals being used should be disclosed, and who should be notified when accidents happen.

"The division is mandated to encourage the wise development of the state's resources for its citizens and we that in balance with the safety of the citizens," said Kustic.

But in other parts of the country, fracking -- often for natural gas -- has made headlines in recent years, mainly over the pollution of groundwater. In the documentary film "Gasland," water was so polluted in one town, a man was able to light his tap water on fire. Opponents in California have tried, but couldn't get nine fracking measures through the Legislature this year, including a moratorium. Only one bill survived and they feel it's weak.

"Really doesn't do anything to protect Californians' water, their health or their private property. So the only logical responsible step at this time is put a moratorium on fracking and Gov. Brown should do that today," said Adam Scow from Food and Water Watch.

With millions of new jobs and billions in tax revenue on the line, it's unlikely the state will want to stop the expansion of fracking, even though a recent poll, most voters in this state say they'd like to see a moratorium.


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