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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 7:06 am | Fair 42º


Public Weighs In on Statewide Fracking Bill at Santa Maria Hearing

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a high-intensity oil and gas production technique that remains controversial in Santa Barbara County and California, as public comment revealed on Tuesday with speakers showing up at a Santa Maria hearing to discuss a new Senate bill. 

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 4 last September, which aimed to complement existing rules surrounding well construction standards. The bill was an effort to safeguard public health and the environment from well-stimulation practices, including hydraulic fracturing.

The bill requires a permit from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, also known as DOGGR, to conduct well stimulation and the permit must include detailed information about the fluids to be used, a groundwater monitoring plan, and a water management plan.

The agency said that copies of an approved permit must be sent to neighboring property owners and tenants, and water well testing must be provided upon request.

The regulations may not go into effect until next summer, so a set of rules was put in place in the meantime that requires oil and gas well operators to submit notification of well stimulation treatments and other info to DOGGR.

DOGGR officials took public comment on the proposed regulations in Santa Maria on Tuesday evening, and will gather public comment from four other cities over the next week, including Long Beach, Sacramento, Bakersfield and Salinas. 

Some environmental groups maintain the law doesn't go far enough.

Locally, proponents of Measure P, a ballot measure that will go before voters this fall asking them to ban fracking, acidizing and steam injection methods in Santa Barbara County, submitted comments opposing the bill.

"These regulations don't even include high-intensity steam injection, which can also employ chemicals and pose the same risks to water and air as fracking," according to Lompoc resident and Measure P supporter Janet Blevins, adding that water testing regulations would be too little, too late.

Others said the bill already goes too far.

Ed Hazard, whose family has owned mineral rights in the county since 1870, said that the current state regulations are a model for other places and already safeguard the community.

"California knows how to do oil right," he said.  "We should be doing more oil right, not stopping production."

Nathan Schmitt, who works for Distribution Now, a company which sells oil and gas equipment, said that the regulations "will be the strictest in the nation" and the state should not pursue a ban.

Linda Phillips spoke on behalf of the League of Women Voters and said there are many loopholes in the current bill. She was concerned about water testing and the lack of disclosures about the types of acid that would be used and in what concentrations.

"As a chemist, I find this very serious," she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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