SACRAMENTO -- State lawmakers are voicing doubts that the Brown administration's proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing is tough enough to protect public health and safety -- and they're questioning whether the state's oil regulators can be trusted to enforce it.
As detailed in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, state senators convened a joint legislative hearing to review draft regulations, which represent California's first attempt to govern the controversial drilling process known as fracking.
Although the proposed rules, released in December, would require energy companies to disclose many of the chemicals they inject deep into the ground to break apart rock and release oil, some lawmakers said the regulations should go further, including advance notice to nearby landowners and water monitoring around fracking operations.
The criticism comes as energy companies explore the technology's potential to tap the state's Monterey shale, the largest shale oil formation in the continental United States.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the formation, which runs from Northern California to Los Angeles, contains 15 billion barrels of oil -- or 64% of the country's deep-rock deposits.
"I think this is the second gold rush," said state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. "Of course, this is black gold. I want to make sure that we address the health and public safety of the people who live in California."
Oil companies say they have used the technology safely for decades in California. Nevertheless, representatives testified that they supported mandatory reporting to allay public concerns.
Energy trade groups told lawmakers that companies use a less intensive form of fracking in California, employing much less water than natural gas operations in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain West.
They also said that although firms have been drilling exploratory wells throughout the state, they have failed to tap the oil-rich Monterey shale.