More discussion continues about “fracking”

April 24, 2013
Santa Paula News

California state regulators from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) held a public workshop on April 19 in Santa Barbara to receive input on their discussion draft regulations on hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

The process - used after regular drilling to get at oil and gas trapped in deep, hard rock formations - injects water, sand and chemicals at high pressures deep under ground to fracture the rock. New technology allowing higher pressures, deeper drilling in any direction has granted access to oil plays in California previously believed to be unrecoverable. 

Currently fracking is unregulated in California, and is exempt from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act due to the so-called Halliburton Loophole that specifically exempts the process. Halliburton developed fracking technology in the late 40’s and is one of three major fracking service companies serving oil operators in California. 

DOGGR officials state that current regulations that apply to all oil wells and the construction and integrity of the casing of the well do constitute protection during the fracking process. They do admit, however, that because they do not track fracking jobs, they only have estimates on how many wells have been fracked in the past, and are currently being fracked. Some companies do voluntarily report frack jobs at

When Mark Nechodom, director of the California Department of Conservation, which oversees DOGGR was pressed at the Santa Barbara workshop, by local attorney George Rheault, about implementing a partial moratorium on fracking, Nechodom said, “It is worth considering, given public concern.” He said it is possible that until state fracking regulations are in place, DOGGR could draw a boundary around existing oil fields and only allow fracking within those boundaries. When another participant suggested a complete moratorium statewide Nechodom said, “Jerry Brown wouldn’t allow one of his departments to place a moratorium on fracking.” He said if he insisted on it, he felt he would be fired. 

In 2011 Governor Brown fired Nechodoms predecessor, Derek Chernow and his deputy Elena Miller because they refused to relax regulations for underground injection methods used to extract oil. Oil and gas industry leaders applauded Browns actions. 

“Keep tuned. Keep pushing us,” Nechodom said in conclusion. “I am a scientist first and a politician second.” He said he is committed to public safety and environmental health. “Nothing trumps that.” If there is a problem, “Tell us where it is. You must. It is not an option. It is your responsibility to tell the regulator.”

At the same time a few blocks away from the DOGGR workshop, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson was introducing panelists at a California Communities Rising Against Fracking event held by Global Exchange - an international human rights organization aimed at empowering communities to enact local ordinances on various issues. Speakers included Doug Shields, city councilmember from Pittsburgh, PA; and Ben Price, director of Community Environmental Defense Fund (CEDLF).

“You have three options. One, do nothing. Two, use existing laws to get outcomes you want. That is taking the regulatory route. This serves the interest of the industry,” said Price. He explained that the oil industry has been involved in the creation of the regulations and laws and they want to engage in that way because they can control it. “[If you go the regulatory route], you’ll get fracked, DOGGR style,” said Price. The third option said Price, is for communities to enact a law higher than regulations and state statutes. “Based on the fundamental right to life and all that is required to sustain it - air, water and environment. The government has no authority to issue permits [for activities] that violate your [fundamental] rights.” 

“Do not wait for your politicians,” said Shields. “If you expect us to save you all, it’s not going to happen. What the people did in Pittsburgh allowed the elected officials to do what they did.” In 2010 the Pittsburgh city council unanimously passed an ordinance that banned all natural gas drilling, effectively banning fracking in their city.  The ordinance was drafted by the CEDLF and included language protecting the rights of the community and nature against industry.

DOGGR expects to enter the formal rule making process by this summer. Officials say it will take about 15 to enact regulations. 

There are several bills working their way through Sacramento, if any pass these are likely to have an effect on the DOGGR regulations. Assembly member Richard Bloom has AB 1301 which would place a moratorium on fracking and require scientific study. 

To view the DOGGR draft regs visit:

To view oil wells throughout Ventura County visit:

For information on the CELDF visit:

For VC oil and gas updates, and resources on the issue of fracking visit:

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