Proposed Bill Hopes to Provide Information on California “Fracking”

A new bill, introduced to California state lawmakers recently, hopes to grant Californians access to records concerning hydraulic fracturing taking place within the state. Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is the process in which a mixture of highly “pressurized mix of water, sand, and toxic chemicals” are injected into underground wells. By doing so, natural resources, like oil and gas, are stimulated and pushed to the surface where they are tapped into for extracting purposes.

Fracking—which is a popular subject here at GreenAnswers—has been a part of California’s oil drilling techniques for over four decades without proper regulation and oversight.  This lack of accountability to the new public, separates the oil companies from the people whose health and environment they are harming. A new bill (AB 591) has now made its way to the California Assembly which looks to change all this.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) explains that the new bill “would require oil and gas companies to inform the state Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources what chemicals are used in fracking operations”—which, up until now, has remained veiled.  Without with information, the quality of Californian’s water and health are put at risk.

It has already been shown that fracking comes with its fair share of downsides, with both Pennsylvania and West Virginia having problems of their own.  Over 1,400 citations have been put to drillers who violated permits given out by the state of Pennsylvania’s division of the Department of Environmental Protection since 2008.  According to the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review, numerous violations were in regards to “discharges of industrial waste and poorly constructed impoundment ponds.”  Missteps like these are extremely harmful to both the environment and water supply, with the risk being high that the chemicals getting into the underground water can and are contaminating resident’s drinking water.

As of now, there is little to no knowledge of the chemicals used in fracking as well as where it is performed. Residents remain largely in the dark.

Assemblyman Bob Wiekowski, who wrote the proposed legislation, aims to “provide the public with the increased disclosure by requiring oil and gas producers to list the chemicals, as well as the source and volume of water used in the fracking process.”  This knowledge will help to provide future legislations that will impose stricter regulations and guidelines on these producers.

California, it appears, may be leading the charge to new reform.  The passing of this bill would create a “legislative roadmap for real reform” across the country.  Bill Allayaud, Director of Government’s Affairs for the California branch of EWG explains that AB 591 “could become the first law in the country that won’t allow the natural gas industry to hide behind confidential business information claims.” Additionally, “It would force companies to make public every chemical use fracking operations in the state.”

Information availability is what it basically boils down to.  By granting access to these types of records it paves the way for future legislation, and consequent actions, that will provide positive changes for more than just California—but countrywide.  

An example of how this may affect the national level is with the FRAC Act which will, if passed by Congress, ask that the same information be available across the states.  But it is not just with the oil companies that this is meeting with difficulties. There is a tug-of-war between farm owners–with some wanting information on what may be contaminating their underground water supply and others trying to make some money off of large percentages for drilling on their land.

So it is that the bill approaches the California State Senate.

To support Assembly Bill 591 and request that Californians have access to this important information, sign the petition here

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