SACRAMENTO -- Environmentalists including a lawmaker criticized state regulators Wednesday for not adequately tracking and overseeing fracking activity in California oil fields.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves the injection of water and chemicals into the ground to stimulate production in oil wells.
Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) had requested that California Department of Conservation Director Mark Nechodom answer questions about the oversight as she pushes legislation that would require strict monitoring. The director submitted a letter to lawmakers this week that she said is troubling.
"It is deeply concerning that dangerous acids and Proposition 65 chemicals are being pumped underground without any permits or oversight,” Pavley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, regulators have not deemed these activities worthy of monitoring.”
Nechodom provided Pavley with a list of chemicals and techniques used in the stimulation of oil wells. But he wrote that the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has “sporadic documentation in well files on well stimulation since the Division does not currently require operators to report well stimulation.”
As a result, he said “extensive file reviews and surveying of the oil and gas industry would be necessary to accurately capture the extent of current practices.”
Pavley said the letter did not dissuade her from pursuing a bill on the issue.
“The Director’s letter reaffirms the need for legislation to force DOGGR to fulfill its legal responsibilities -- protection of life, health, property and natural resources,” she said.
Nechodom’s response that his agency lacks a searchable database on well stimulation operations and resources to review thousands of scanned documents also concerned Briana Mordick, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Director Nechodom’s response confirms what we suspected, which is that DOGGR doesn’t know what, where, when, or with what chemicals well stimulation is being used in California,” said Mordick, a former senior geologist for Anadarko Petroleum Corp.