SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday that will establish California's first rules detailing how oil drillers use a technique known as fracking.
The bill from Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, requires drillers to disclose the chemicals used and acquire permits before they use hydraulic fracturing. That process involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into deep rock formations to release oil or natural gas.
Drilling companies have been exploring whether fracking could help them access oil in California's Monterey Shale.
Pavley's bill passed the Legislature last week amid concerns from some conservation groups over last-minute changes affecting environmental reviews.
Brown said in his signing message that SB4 "establishes strong environmental protections and transparency requirements," but that he will seek some additional changes next year to clarify the new requirements. His spokesman, Evan Westrup, declined to elaborate on what those amendments will attempt to address.
The governor added in his message that he will direct the state Department of Conservation to group drilling permits based on factors such as geologic conditions and environmental impacts when possible as a way to boost efficiency. Yet he also will allow for "more particularized review" of permit applications when necessary.
Other provisions of the legislation, which will take effect in January, will require oil companies to test groundwater and notify neighboring landowners before drilling. State officials will have to complete a study by January 2015 evaluating risks of fracking and other well-stimulation techniques, such as using acid to break apart oil-rich rocks.
All California oil wells have been subject to the same regulations, with no specific rules for those using hydraulic fracturing. The Department of Conservation also has been crafting fracking regulations that officials hope to finalize next year.
Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said Friday that the legislation will give the industry a framework for energy exploration in the Monterey Shale.
"There's no question that there is a great deal more reporting and permitting that will be required," Hull said. "This will add cost and time to bringing energy to market, and the industry will have to adapt to those regulations."
Brown also signed a bill from state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, which will increase the bonding amounts oil and gas drillers must post in case a well is abandoned or an operator is unable to pay for environmental damage. Those amounts have not been adjusted since 1998.
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