Thursday, February 23, 2012

DOG: Fracking Concerns Exaggerate Potential Risks to California's Water Supply

In a letter published today in the Chico Enterprise-Record (and elsewhere), Tim Kustic, Director of California's Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOG), stated that concerns about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, exaggerate the potential risks to California's water supply, adding that "fracking has been used to stimulate [oil and gas] production in California for years without a single report of environmental damage."

Responding to a February 16 letter published in the newspaper, which called for an end to fracking in California, Director Kustic wrote:
As head of the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, I know the type of fracking portrayed in "Gasland" is not routinely employed in California because the geology is different.
In some parts of the country, it's true that tens of thousands of gallons of water are injected underground at high pressure over a long period of time to break up underlying shale formations.That process allows natural gas that would otherwise remain trapped in the rock to be produced.
In California, fracking typically is a short-term method of well stimulation that uses much less water. Much of our natural gas is produced from sand, which does not require fracking stimulation.
Director Kustic also noted that, despite the absence of legislation specifically targeting fracking, California has regulations in place to protect water supplies that could potentially be impacted by fracking or other oil and gas production activities:
While it's true that California does not currently have fracking-specific regulations, the state does have extensive regulations to protect any water supplies near oil and gas wells.
Assembly Bill 591, a bill that would require greater disclosure of fracking-related activities in California, is pending in the legislature. Introduced on February 16, 2011, the last amended version of AB 591 would require an owner or operator of an oil or gas well (or those working on its behalf) to document specified information regarding fracking activities. It would also require the owner or operator to file with the DOG copies of the well log, core record, and history of work performed. It would also require DOG to add this information to its website, make the information available to the public, and submit a report to the legislature by January 1, 2013. This bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski representing California's 20th district, was held under submission in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 25, 2011. Further action on AB 591 is expected in 2012. As Director Kustic noted, however, and as was explained in a recent webinar presented by Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard, existing California statutes give the DOG wide latitude and authority to regulate all oil and gas-related activities, including fracking operations. AB 591 would, however, more clearly define the disclosure obligations of oil and gas operators.

For more information regarding this matter, please contact Eric Adair or the KMTG attorney with whom you normally consult.

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