On Dec. 30, 2014, California regulators released new state rules for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
State regulators and members of industry have repeatedly hailed the rigorous rules, which go into effect July 1. Dr. Steven Bohlen, California’s state oil-and-gas supervisor, called them “as strict or stricter than any other state’s.”
But some local scientists and environmentalists counter that the rules fall short, noting gaps in coverage and problems with the rulemaking process.
Fracking is the controversial practice of injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals down a well to crack open bedrock and extract previously hard-to-access oil and gas reserves.
There are already hundreds of fracked wells in California, mostly in the state’s Monterey shale region, in the central and southern parts of the state. The shale play could have around 600 million barrels of untapped reserves, according to a 2014 analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
But in the fracking boom’s wake, there’s growing public concern about the drilling impacts on the environment and public health. In drought-stricken California, residents are especially worried about the industry’s high demand for water—a single well can use a million gallons or more during its lifetime.
Californians are also wary of spills impacting precious water supplies, as well as fracking operations and related waste disposal triggering damaging earthquakes in the seismically active state.