SACRAMENTO (CN) – California’s water regulator on Tuesday announced new reporting and public disclosure requirements for fracking operators, to protect the state’s dwindling groundwater supply.
For the first time, fracking operators will have to report on the condition of the groundwater near their wells, and make the information public.
The reporting requirements will be the strictest in nation, said State Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus.
“The goal is to prevent pollution of water that can be used for drinking water, agriculture and other beneficial uses,” Marcus said in statement. “And if we then find threats to our groundwater, these rules will allow us to quickly identify and help trace the cause to require those responsible to clean it up.”
Frackers will have to submit groundwater monitoring plans to the water board for approval and the regulator will review the plans on a regional basis.
California is the third-largest oil producing state. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is becoming more frequent, particularly in the Central Valley. About 300 wells are being added per month in California, most of them involving fracking.
As California struggles through a historic drought, now in its fourth year, environmentalists wants fracking operations held accountable for contributing to the state’s shrinking groundwater supply and decreased water quality.
According to the California Department of Water Resources, groundwater levels have been at record low levels since 2008 and the state continues to drain the underground supply at a furious pace. Researchers estimate the Golden State gets 60 percent of its water from tapping into groundwater, and land subsidence is increasing throughout the Central Valley.
Subsidence occurs when land sinks, due to hollows created underneath it.
Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 signed the state’s fracking bill, Senate Bill 4, which requires oil and gas companies to apply for a permit to frack, to publicly disclose the fracking chemicals they use and notify residents before drilling.
The water board developed the new reporting guidelines in accordance with SB 4 and based the criteria on recommendations from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The large-scale groundwater monitoring will set a precedent in public disclosure of the information, the water board said.
“The data and information will be made publicly available,” State Water Board Deputy Director Jonathan Bishop said. “Transparency is a core element of this program.”
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