Two Central Coast legislators have introduced bills to protect the drinking water supply and bring more regulation and oversight to the oil and gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced Senate Bill 395, a bill to regulate the wastewater produced from fracking. Jackson’s Senate Bill 395 would require that any fluids brought up during the fracking process be regulated as a hazardous waste by the Department of Toxic Substances Control, giving it the authority to ensure that the appropriate precautions are taken in how the wastewater is transported and disposed.
“Given the potential threat to our drinking water supplies, our public health and our environment, we need to make sure there is proper oversight of the potentially toxic chemical brew that’s produced from fracking,” Jackson said.
Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced AB 982, which would require companies fracking for oil and gas in California to monitor groundwater near their operations. The proposed legislation would require monitoring of groundwater quality both before and after any fracking.
“The oil and gas industry wants to greatly expand its presence in California, in my district and others,” Williams said. “We need to make sure their operations don’t compromise our critical groundwater supplies.”
Fracking has been minimally regulated in California, with no required disclosure of chemicals used or locations of fracking drill sites. The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has released the first draft of regulations on hydraulic fracturing, yet does not intend to require monitoring of groundwater quality.
A report submitted to the Legislature by the State Water Board on Feb. 4 indicates that more than 30 million Californians rely upon groundwater for all or part of their water supplies. Such heavy dependence on groundwater for drinking water and irrigation calls for its protection to be a top priority. AB 982 follows proposals from other states, such as Alaska, Colorado and Wyoming, yet would set a new standard for groundwater protection from fracking in California.
“The oil and gas industry has been drilling in California near and through underground sources of drinking and irrigation water for decades and contends that their operations have caused no harm,” said Miriam Gordon, California director of Clean Water Action, the primary sponsor of Williams’ bill. “Without monitoring, it’s like putting on a blindfold and saying you don’t see a problem. We applaud Assembly Member Williams for this sensible solution.”
During fracking, water, sand and chemical additives are injected under pressure to fracture the shale reservoir, which increases the flow of oil and gas. Though a comparatively small amount of chemicals are part of the injected fluids, they have the potential to be dangerously toxic. Twenty-nine of the most commonly used hydraulic fracturing chemicals are known carcinogens.
“I see my legislative efforts as complementary to those of Assemblymember Williams,” Jackson said. “When it comes to fracking, the safety and health of Californians, and the impact on the environment, should be our first, last, and most fundamental concerns.”
— Josh Molina is a communications specialist for Assemblyman Das Williams.