Hinson Gravelle & Adair LLP attorney Eric Adair was interviewed for and quoted in a December 18, 2012, Platts report (subscription required). The report, which discussed the draft hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” regulations (pdf) recently proposed by California’s Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), is reprinted below. For more information regarding California’s proposed fracking regulations, please see our analysis here.
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California agency releases early fracking rules, downplays seismicity issue
New York (Platts) –18Dec2012/827 pm EST/127 GMT
Oil and natural gas drillers that frack in California would have to report fracking chemicals and other technical criteria to regulators under preliminary guidelines released Tuesday, which also downplayed any link between seismic activity and fracking in the earthquake-prone state.
Called a “discussion draft” of fracking regulations, the guidelines by the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources were much anticipated by lawmakers and the public, and their release kicks off a period of hearings among stakeholders.
“It’s up to a year-long rulemaking process,” Jason Marshall, chief deputy director for the California Department of Conservation [DOC], said on a media phone call. The department oversees DOGGR.
DOGGR plans to hold seven different “workshops” across the state. The agency will also meet with two state lawmakers who have previously introduced fracking legislation.
The rules are a “starting point for discussion by key stakeholders – a industry, the environmental community and other regulators, as well as interested members of the public, in preparation for the more formal process, which probably will begin in early 2013,” DOGGR said.
Draft regulations include guidelines on pre-fracturing wells; providing advance 10-day notification to the state; monitoring of fracking operations; disclosure of materials used in fracturing fluid; and storage and handling of hydraulic fracturing fluids.
Under the DOGGR draft guidelines, well operators would have to disclose fracking activities and chemicals on www.fracfocus.org, although “operators are not required to post trade secrets to the Chemical Disclosure Registry.”
SEISMIC ISSUE TAKES BACK SEAT
“Noticeably absent from the draft regulations is any significant treatment of induced seismicity,” California lawyer Eric Adair said in a blog posting on his company’s website. Adair is a lawyer at Hinson Gravelle & Adair and has represented corporations, private landowners, government agencies and water supply agencies.
On its website, DOGGR said that “reports of induced seismicity associated with [fracking] are actually related to long-duration, high-volume injection of waste fluids in disposal wells. [Fracking] is a short-duration production well stimulation treatment.”
DOGGR said that “induced seismicity has not been an issue in California.”
“California has eliminated billions of barrels of water annually without any cause of alarm for seismicity,” Marshall told reporters.
Adair said separately in an interview that he thinks DOGGR “views the issue of induced seismicity as an exaggeration.”
“I think DOGGR looked it . . . and concluded it’s just not a significant issue,” Adair said.
Under the guidelines, well operators would be required to disclose the “trade name, supplier, and a brief description of the intended purpose of each additive contained in the hydraulic fracturing fluid,” as well as the “total volume of carrier fluid used during hydraulic fracturing” and “the estimated volume of hydraulic fracture fluid flowback that has been recovered.”
Operators would have to perform a series of evaluations before fracking a well, DOGGR said. Areas for evaluation would include pressure testing of cemented casing strings, tubing strings and well cementing, and operators also would have to show that no fracking fluids or hydrocarbons will seep into protected water zones.
The preliminary guidelines were generally as expected by industry group Western States Petroleum Association [WSPA].
“We’ve [known] for a long time we would be operating under new regulations and it appears DOGGR continues to put a lot of thought and effort into the process,” WSPA spokesman Tupper Hull said in an email.
“We appreciate that the draft regulations continue to recognize the important role hydraulic fracturing can play in energy production in California,” Hull said. “We certainly plan on participating fully in the rule making process early next year.”
By contrast, environmental group Center for Biological Diversity [CBD] blasted the early guidelines.
The draft “rules do almost nothing to protect our air, water or climate,” Kassie Siegel, director of the group’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement. “California faces huge environmental risks unless state officials halt this dangerous fracking boom.”
Siegel faulted DOGGR for not requiring drillers to maintain “baseline data” on pre-fracking air and water quality, in order to “effectively verify no damages occur from fracking.”
The group also argued that “huge” loopholes would let well operators “avoid disclosing use of dangerous fracking chemicals.”
“Oil and gas companies could avoid disclosure merely by claiming that maintaining the secrecy of their chemical formulas gives them a competitive advantage,” she said.
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For more information regarding California fracking issues, please contact Eric Adair. Follow Eric on Twitter: Follow @kericadair
Tagged → CBD, Center for Biological Diversity, Department of Conservation, Division of Oil and Gas, DOGGR, Fracking, Hydraulic fracturing, Western States Petroleum Association, WSPA