California releases draft fracking regulations

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm •  Published: December 18, 2012
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"There's quite a bit of exploration taking place and people trying to answer that question," Hull said. "We think the jury is still out on whether or not this resource can be developed, but there's no question there's a lot of energy locked in that shale."

The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed rules early in 2013 in a process that will take about a year to finalize.

"These regulations ... go well beyond disclosure requirements to require rigorous testing and evaluation before, during and after hydraulic fracturing operations to ensure that wells and geologic formations remain competent and that drinking water is not contaminated," the agency said in comments posted on its website.

"Some of the testing and evaluation requirements of the proposed regulations have not yet been implemented by any other state," it said.

While the chemical disclosure requirement was hailed by some fracking critics as an important step forward, California's draft rules also include a "trade secrets" exemption.

The trade secrets exemption would allow a company to bypass public reporting of the specific chemicals in "fracking fluid" if that information would reveal secrets that competitors could use to gain an advantage.

In lieu of specifics, companies would be required instead to post the "chemical family or similar descriptor" for the agents it is using.

Doctors and nurses treating anyone harmed by a chemical spill or groundwater contamination would be required to sign non-disclosure agreements before a trade-secret protected company would identify the chemicals it uses.

In addition, the privately-owned website on which operators would be required to report the chemicals — FracFocus.org — has been criticized as hard to use and not subject to freedom of information laws.

"These draft regulations would keep California's fracking shrouded in secrecy and do little to contain the many threats posed by fracking," Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement.

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AP Science Writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Jason Dearen can be reached at http://www.twitter.org/JHDearen