Governer Brown passes new regulation on oil fracking: Calirfornia creates first hydrofracking legislation
By Henley Doherty
Legislation was passed by governor Jerry Brown on Friday, Sept. 20 to regulate oil fracking in the state of California for the very first time. The regulations will require fracking companies to disclose information about all chemicals used in the process of extracting oil from underground reservoirs, as well as require regular studies to be released on the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted from each oil fracking site. Increasing controversy has arisen over the new legislation signed by Brown, with many organizations vouching that the terms of the regulation are not strict enough and with others claiming that the legislation limits economic benefits as well as maximum oil production.
It is important to understand the method of oil fracking itself in order to better perceive the impact it has on the environment and the nation’s economy. In a survey of 40 randomly-selected USD students only 12 knew what oil fracking is and what the term signifies. Many do not seem to stop to even consider the methods in which oil is derived, or how these methods truly impact local communities as well as the natural environment. After all, besides gasoline, petroleum is found in such daily products as soaps, inks, perfumes, dyes, plastics, lotions, toothpaste, and even eyeglasses. Oil fracking, otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, is one of the many methods that have been devised to draw out petroleum existing deep in underground reservoirs. It is a method that has existed for decades and is currently being used in over half of the states in the nation, as well as in many regions in northern California. The number of fracking sites in the state as well as across the nation is expected to rise.
The process of fracking begins when metal pipes are sent into the ground above a known oil reserve to create wells that run anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 feet below the earth’s surface. A fluid mixture made up of water and various chemicals is then pumped down into these wells in order to break through rock and shale to flush out trapped petroleum and natural gas. The oil and gas are then collected by being drawn back up through the wells.
The chemicals put into the fluid mixture used to flush out oil are mostly those found in everyday house-cleaning products and detergent. The mixture itself is made up of about 99 percent water and only about one percent chemicals. Even so, there is great concern by various environmental and public health organizations over the chemicals’ potential effect upon not only the natural environment and soil quality but the health of the public as well. The chemicals expelled into the ground from the wells have the potential to leak into water reserves, both under and above ground. They thus have the potential to affect community water supplies as well as plant and animal life living off of these water sources.
There have been several instances in the past in various states such as Texas and North Dakota in which chemical leakages from oil fracking had caused the chemical contamination of surrounding lands and communities. This had affected the health of nearby plant growth and wildlife as well as yielding nearby water sources unsafe to drink. Despite the past instances and potential continuation of chemical leaks caused by fracking, no professional scientific study has ever been conducted to research the chemical’s true effects on the environment. This leaves unclear the greatest possible that damage that these chemicals could do.
Some health and environment groups view this recent legislation as too passive about the negative effects of fracking and the chemicals it uses.The law requires the release of information about the chemicals but does not yet set any limits on the amount of chemicals used, the way in which leftover chemicals are disposed of or the extent to which land can cleared and developed to make room for the fracking hydraulics, pumps and petroleum storing units.
“The oil fracking companies still have a lot of freedom to do what they want, so there needs to be more regulations put into place,” sophomore Sophia Shetterly said. It is possible that the negative environmental impacts, as well as the potential for chemical contamination, have been overlooked by state legislators. “It is important for there to be more research on the fracking chemicals and how they affect the environment,” Shetterly said.
Despite these potential risks, fracking in itself is a beneficial method in which to collect oil as it allows for for deep and hard-to-reach oil reserves to be tapped into. An increase in the number of oil fracking sites will also undoubtedly create many of new jobs per year.
“In regards to fracking specifically, it is a booming industry and a serious chance for America to become energy independent in the near future,” sophomore Garrett Gaughan said. “Fracking is a great way to create jobs, because it requires both skilled and unskilled labor. North Dakota, a state where fracking and energy development is a leading industry, has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.”
It is estimated by oil fracking companies that the recently passed legislation may lessen the economic profits from fracking, not only for the companies themselves, but for communities and the nation as a whole. This is because the law requires companies to hire and maintain research teams to publish studies of the fracking’s output of greenhouse gases as well as the estimated amounts of chemical seepage in the nearby environment, such as in water and soil.