California on Tuesday issued its first-ever fracking regulations as companies seek new sources of oil and gas long locked in rock.

Last year, at least 628 fracking operations occurred in the state, according to a voluntary oil industry survey, but the state has had no rules requiring public notification, disclosure of chemicals used and other key issues surrounding the practice.

The state's draft rules would require:

  • Oil and gas companies planning to use hydraulic fracturing to notify the state Department of Conservation within 10 days of the drilling.

  • The department to post the location, company name and other information to its website three days before work begins.

  • Companies after the work is completed to post on a privately held online database, FracFocus, the type and volume of chemicals used.

  • Operators to take new steps to monitor their wells, and to stop operations if they notice issues, like pressure changes, that could indicate leaks or other accidents.

    But critics note that the rules:

  • Do not require the companies to notify adjacent property owners.

  • Allow companies to withhold specifics about the chemicals they are injecting into the ground if they claim "trade secrets."

  • Do not require monitoring of groundwater before and after the fracking work to see if there was pollution.

  • Do not control air pollution from fracking operations.

    What's next?

  • The Department of Conservation will begin a formal rule-making process early next year, with public hearings and comments.

  • The rules could change and will take about one year to finalize.

  • Meanwhile, bills are pending in the state Legislature to place tighter controls on the practice, including more public notice and disclosure.


    fracking
    Pre-rulemaking discussion draft