California lawmakers need to control fracking

California sits atop an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil trapped inside rock formations under the Central Valley. Extracting it could mean hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in revenue for the state. It could also mean air and groundwater pollution, earthquakes and water shortages.

Extracting the oil would require the use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a process in which fluids are injected into the ground to break up rock and free oil and natural gas. It’s enormously profitable but alarmingly untested, and has been linked to groundwater contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes. It also requires enormous amounts of water—a serious concern in California.

Efforts to regulate fracking have been fiercely opposed by industry groups such as the Western States Petroleum Association, which has spent $2.2 million lobbying to defeat a dozen proposals in the California Legislature. One bill, Sen. Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, is still alive.

S.B. 4 requires the industry to disclose chemicals used in the process, pay for groundwater monitoring and notify property owners prior to fracking operations. It would also require California Environmental Quality Act reviews before new projects could commence. As the oil industry gears up for a massive increase in Central Valley operations, Pavley’s bill represents the hope for keeping fracking under control.