Gov. Brown Wants California to Consider Hydraulic Fracturing

At a renewable energy conference in San Francisco on March 13, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown offered a qualified endorsement of hydraulic fracturing. Gov. Brown stated that “the fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible. The potential is extraordinary, but between now and development lies a lot of questions [concerning hydraulic fracturing’s effects on air and water quality] that need to be answered.” He advised that any decisions on fracking would be based on science, common sense and on a deliberative process that “listens to the people but also wants to take advantage of the great opportunities” in the state.

While hydraulic fracturing has been practiced for years in California oil patch, the development of the potentially lucrative Monterey shale formation has created the possibility of a new fracking boom in central California. Meanwhile, under discussion are hydraulic fracturing regulations proposed by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) in December 2012 and several hydraulic fracturing bills that have been proposed in California’s legislature. Brief summaries of the proposed regulations and pending legislation follows.

California's DOGGR's proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

  • Fracking activities would not be considered underground injection or disposal projects and therefore would not be subject to statutes governing these projects. 
  • Operators would be required to:
    • Follow general requirements for well casing, protection of water zones, prevention of vertical migration of fluids or gases, wellbore integrity, and other well construction matters that are set out in the regulations. 
    • Provide the DOGGR and the appropriate water control board a variety of information detailing the proposed fracking operations before they begin. This information must be provided to the DOGGR on a required form at least ten days before fracking begins, and the DOGGR must post this to its website within seven days of receipt. The operator then must notify the DOGGR at least 24 hours before actually beginning the work. 
    • Pressure test all cemented casing strings and tubing strings, evaluate the adequacy of the cementing, insure proper rigging of the surface equipment, and perform a fracture radius analysis before commencing fracking operations. 
    • Monitor the wells after fracking has been completed to identify any potential problems that could endanger any underground source of protected water. The monitoring data must be maintained for at least five years and made available to the DOGGR. 
    • Post on specified data about the fracking operations, including identification of all fracking fluid components. Trade secrets need not be identified if the operator executes a declaration under penalty of perjury confirming the confidential nature of the information. Should an agency need to know the composition of the fluids claimed as trade secrets due a release or an accidental spill or should a medical professional need the information for treatment of a patient, the trade secret information must be provided. 
  • Monitoring would be required during the hydraulic fracturing activity. 
  • Fracking fluids, including fluids stored at well sites and fracking flowback must be stored in lined sumps or pits. Any unauthorized release of fluids must be reported to the DOGGR and the area of the release must be cleaned up and remediated. 

Senate Bill No. 4, introduced on December 3, 2012, amended on March 11, 2013
Assembly Bill No. 7, introduced on December 3, 2012

  • Defines “hydraulic fracturing” as a treatment used in stimulating a well that involves the pressurized injection of hydraulic fracturing fluid and proppant into an underground geologic formation in order to fracture the formation, thereby causing or enhancing the production of oil or gas from a well. Defindes “hydraulic fracturing fluid” as a carrier fluid mixed with physical and chemical additives tor the purpose of hydraulic fracturing. 
  • Operators would be required to 
    • Record and include all data on hydraulic fracturing treatments, including names and locations of all known seismic faults. 
    • File a notice of intention to commence fracking with the DOGGR supervisor or a district deputy at least 30 days before beginning the fracking operation. The hydraulic fracturing operation must be completed within one year of the filing of the notice of intention. Within 10 of receipt of the notice of intention, the DOGGR must make the notice publicly available by posting it on the division’s website and notifying the appropriate regional water quality control board 
  • A supplier (defined as an entity performing hydraulic fracturing or an entity supplying an additive or proppant directly to the operator for use in hydraulic fracturing) must provide the operator within 30 days following the conclusion of the fracking, detailed information regarding the hydraulic fracturing fluid. The information would include CAS numbers, maximum concentrations in percent by mass of each and every chemical constituent of the fluids used, the trade name, the total volume of base fluid, and the source, volume and disposition of all water. A supplier would not disclose trade secrets to the operator, but would be required to disclose the composition of any trade secret to the DOGGR. Within 60 days following the conclusion of fracking, the operator would be required to post the fracking fluid information on an Internet website accessible to the public. 
  • On or before January 1, 2015, the DOGGR, in consultation with the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the State Air Resources Board, and the State Water Resources Board, is directed to adopt rules and regulations specific to hydraulic fracturing, including provisions governing the construction of wells and well casings and full disclosure of the composition and disposition of hydraulic fracturing fluids. 

Senate Bill No. 395, introduced on February 20, 2013 

  • Defines “produced water” as any water brought up from the hydrocarbon bearing formation strata during the extraction of oil and gas, including hydraulic fracturing operations, and can include formation water, injection water, and any chemicals added downhole or during the oil and water separation process. 
  • Produced water is to be regulated as a hazardous waste. 

Assembly Bill No. 892, introduced on February 22, 2013

  • Defines “hydraulic fracturing” as the injection of fluids or gases into an underground geologic formation with the intentional to cause or enhance fractures in the underground geologic formation in order to cause or enhance the production of oil or gas from a well. 
  • Operator must provide a groundwater monitoring plan for review and approval by the supervisor and appropriate water quality control board. The plan must include the current water quality of the groundwater basin through which the well will be drilled, water quality data, a means to detect any contamination associated with well operation, and how to deal with a well casing failure or any other event which could contaminate the groundwater. 
  • Water quality monitoring must be submitted electronically to the State Water Resource Control Board and any other public data registry. 

This post was prepared by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) fromFulbright's Energy Practice.