Southern California environment news and trends

California oil regulators release draft regulations for fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing

Calif. Dept. of Conservation

California posted draft regulations online Tuesday for hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Environmentalists say the practice can pollute the air and groundwater.

After decades of oil drilling, California has released draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The proposed rules were posted online Tuesday by the state's oil regulators. California currently oversees oil well construction but it has not required disclosure of fracking practices.

Under the draft regulations, operators would have to name the chemicals used in fracking and they would have to test their wells to ensure they can withstand the drilling process.

Fracking has been quietly going on in several counties including Los Angeles, Kern, Monterey and Sacramento to extract hard-to-reach oil. Other states use the technique to recover natural gas.

Environmentalists worry fracking can contaminate groundwater and pollute the air. The industry has said it has been safely used for decades.

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Natural gas catches up with coal in America

Mercer 4605

David McNew/Getty Images

The AES Corporation 495-megawatt Alamitos natural gas-fired power station stands on October 1, 2009 in Long Beach, California.

There’s nothing quite like the first time. That’s the sentiment behind last week’s announcement by the U.S. Energy Information Association that the amount of electricity being generated by natural gas is in a dead-heat with the amount derived from coal.

As reported by Treehugger, April data shows that natural gas plants generated 32 percent of the nation’s power, the same share produced by coal plants. That’s 95.9 million megawatthours from natural gas, compared to 96.0 megawatthours from coal.

According to the EIA, natural gas was able to catch up due to prices being at a 10-year low in April and reduced demand for electricity thanks to a mild winter (and spring). The EPA also recently imposed new rules limiting emissions of mercury, chromium and more. Another far more controversial reason behind the natural gas boom is the hydraulic drilling process of “fracking.”

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