Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to create California's first set of regulations on hydraulic fracturing. The controversial extraction technique, commonly known as fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations in order to create fractures that release reserves of oil or natural gas.
While fracking operations in the Northeast generally extract natural gas, in California, oil is the big prize.
Until now, there have been no specific regulations on the use of fracking in California. Senate Bill 4, written by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), requires drillers to obtain well permits, reveal the chemicals used in the well injection process and notify residents living nearby. The legislation also calls for groundwater testing and an independent study of fracking's impact on the state's environmental quality.
The bill, which takes effect in January, has been criticized by a host of environmental and public health groups for being far too lax in its regulation of the industry and containing unnecessary loopholes.