On the eve of a series of public hearings on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial but little-regulated method of oil extraction in California, an industry group said today that its members will voluntarily post information about their "fracking" operations on a disclosure website, Frac Focus, likely by the end of June.
The disclosure comes as Gov. Jerry Brown's administration, pressured by lawmakers, prepares to draft the state's first regulations for fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected thousands of feet underground to break up rock formations. Unlike some other states, California does not have special regulations for that method of oil production, and regulators say they do not know how prevalent it is.
The Western States Petroleum Association said today that hydraulic fracturing was used in 628 of California's tens of thousands of wells last year by association member companies, mostly in Kern County. Those companies represent about 80 percent of oil production in the state.
Association president Catherine Reheis-Boyd said companies will disclose what chemicals they use in fracturing jobs, but not in exactly what combination.
Environmentalists warn fracking can damage wells and pollute groundwater. Industry representatives say the technology, used at least since the 1950s, is routine, with no evidence of any hazard in California.
The state Department of Conservation is hosting a series of workshops on the technology this summer, starting Wednesday in Bakersfield. In addition to developing regulations for fracking, it is reviewing how the state regulates cyclic steam injection drilling, in which steam is used in shallow rock formations to help extract oil.
That method of oil recovery was linked to the death of a Chevron oil worker in Kern County last year.