Governor signs hotly debated law on fracking

4:34 PM, Sep 20, 2013   |    comments
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Ending a year of heated debate -- but probably only for the time being -- Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law an effort to impose new statewide regulations on drilling oil through the process known as fracking.

Brown signed Senate Bill 4 on Friday afternoon, an expected move on legislation that seemed to displease both environmentalists and the oil industry, but which the governor and the bill's backers argue is an important first step.

The new law regulates the use of fracking -- the process of loosening undeground oil deposits with water and chemicals -- as well as other means of 'well stimulation' including the use of acids.  It's seen as putting California in the forefront nationally of addressing the increased use of fracking.

But after a summer of bitter negotiations and debate, the bill lost virtually all of its support from environmental groups.  Those groups urged Brown to impose a moratorium on fracking rather than sign what they saw as a bill watered down to appease the oil industry.

SB 4 creates new regulations including the testing of groundwater; notification of nearby residents before fracking begins; and online disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking.

Environmental groups wanted more details on those chemicals, including disclosure of the specific concentrations used -- a request the oil industry contended amounts to trade secrets.  The new law does not require the release of information related to those concentrations.

The governor, in a rare signing message attached to his signature on SB 4 (PDF), said the discussion shouldn't end with the new law.

"The bill needs some clarifying amendments," wrote Brown, "and I will work with the author in making those changes next year."


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