Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is not occuring in San Benito County and there are no plans to utilize that technology in the near future. The state of California is making a comprehensive study of fracking and established the most robust environmental regulations of the process in the United States with Senate Bill 4 (SB4).
Water is critical to life and oil is critical to the economy. Senate Bill 4 addresses the need to protect water resources with a balanced approach to regulate petroleum production in the state. California is now the third largest oil producing state in the Uited States, behind Texas and North Dakota. In contrast to many other major oil and gas producing states, California’s crude oil production had been declining prior to 2012. A slight uptick in production last year suggests that the technological innovations are being applied to the significant oil and gas resources available in California. Directional drilling offers the possibility of safely accessing a significant portion of the estimated 10 billion barrels of offshore oil and gas from land-based drilling rigs.
Another opportunity is to develop the Monterey shale in the Central Valley region, which may hold up to 15 billion barrels of crude oil. At current market prices, these assets are worth $2.5 trillion, which, if monetized, could generate hundreds of billions in tax and royalty revenues to fund pensions, education, health, and other government programs. Developing oil and gas resources, however, involves environmental impacts on air, land, and water resources that impose costs on society.
Senate Bill 4 recognizes the importance of California’s petroleum industry:
The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) The hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells in combination with technological advances in oil and gas well drilling are spurring oil and gas extraction and exploration in California. Other well stimulation treatments, in addition to hydraulic fracturing, are also critical to boosting oil and gas production.”
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 established federal regulations for drinking water standards in the United States. States are required under that law to meet or exceed federal water quality standards. SDWA was revised in 1986 and again in 1996 to enforce new standards as science and technology evolved with improved instrument measuring technology and public health data information.
Like the SDWA, SB4 will evolve as water quality monitoring and hydrogeologic studies and reports inform the government about methods to improve petroleum production while providing maximum safety and security to state water resources.