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EPA Steps Up Regulation Of California Fracking

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking small steps to oversee the safety of the booming fracking industry. Companies who engage in hydraulic fracturing in the waters off the coast of Southern California will be required to report, beginning March 1, if they dump chemicals into the ocean. But, there’s a catch. The rule only applies to new drilling jobs; existing rigs will be grandfathered in under the new rule and are exempt from the reporting requirements.

Offshore fracking presents the danger of water contamination in the sea or ocean surrounding the offshore rig. Although the oil and gas industry has long asserted that fracking is safe for the environment, the Center for Biological Diversity asserts that the opposite is true. “Our beaches, our wildlife and our entire coastal ecosystem are at risk until the state reins in this dangerous practice [fracking],” noted an attorney for the Center regarding the use of toxic chemicals by fracking companies in California and offshore.

The move by federal regulators is a step in the right direction, but critics note that overrelies on self-reporting: the teeth in the regulations come from fracking companies openly admitting that they are contaminating federal waters, something that they may not be likely to do.

State regulators in California have taken a stricter turn toward overseeing fracking safety; however, its rules don’t go into effect until 2015. Under California rules, fracking companies will be required to complete groundwater contamination testing and notify landowners of fracking proposals. California will also require fracking companies to obtain permits for the extraction process and to disclose the chemicals used to expel oil and gas from the bedrock.

Source: USA Today, “EPA to require California fracking reports,” January 9, 2014

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