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California Lawmakers Say Fracking Study Shows Lax Oversight

Simon Fraser University / Flickr

In areas where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy, a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads cut through forests and grasslands.

Simon Fraser University / Flickr

California lawmakers say the report by the California Council on Science and Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab outlined the lack of information state regulators have about fracking. The study said the state lacks data about the toxicity of hundreds of chemicals used in fracking as well as how wastewater from the process is disposed of or reused.
During a legislative oversight hearing Tuesday, William Stringfellow, with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, said fracking wastewater that is reused to irrigate crops must be monitored better.

“There’s questions about whether the treatment currently being used is adequate," says Stringfellow. "That needs to be determined and in general put in other kinds of safeguards that are standard for reuse of water of this type."

Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams interrupted. "Your point is that only a small amount of our food may have been poisoned so we better put a regulatory structure in place before a large amount is?” asked Williams. 

The oil industry says fracking opponents are using scare tactics and that California has some of the toughest fracking regulations in the country. 

California oil and gas regulators say they’re moving forward with some of the recommendations made in the study to improve oversight of the oil industry. Steve Bohlen with the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources defended the department’s aggressiveness.

“I think there is a new focus in the division on regulatory compliance and that’s been looked at very carefully," says Bohlen. "As you know, I have removed several staff from leadership positions. It’s a very big job. We’ve had some very bad habits.”

Some legislators and environmentalists are still calling for either a moratorium or ban on fracking. Fracking opponents delivered more than 100,000 petitions for a ban to Governor Jerry Brown.

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