We can't help but imagine former Vice President Dick Cheney loudly grinding his teeth in response to an announcement Friday by the California Department of Conservation (DOC), which proposed several regulations for the oversight of the oil drilling practice known as fracking. The DOC's draft regulations stem from the recent passage of State Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law in September. Until now, California companies engaged in fracking operations did so with little oversight, and weren't even required to obtain special permits before drilling. As a result, the true extent of the practice in the state is unknown.
The process of fracking involves injecting a cocktail of chemicals deep underground to break up rock in order to harvest oil and natural gas. Thanks to the efforts of former Veep Cheney, oil companies engaged in fracking operations have benefitted from an exemption of the Federal Clean Water Act known as the 'Halliburton Loophole,' which absolved the frackers from publicly disclosing what cancer causing-chemicals they used in the process.
Though states like Pennsylvania and North Dakota have borne the main thrust of the fracking movement in recent years, at least one oil company has been considering the development of new operations in several north Orange County cities. Recent media reports also indicate that fracking has been occurring off the coasts of Huntington Beach and Seal Beach.
According to a DOC press release, Friday's list of proposed regulations begins the formal rule making process for SB4, and kicks off a 60-day public comment period. If approved, regulations could include requiring frackers to apply for a permit with the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources, and provide a list of chemicals used. Operators could also be required to provide written notice to their neighbors of the proposed project site at least 30 days in advance of well stimulation.