Monterey Supervisors Reject Ban on Fracking

This week, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors rejected a ban on hydraulic fracturing and instead opted to let the state’s Final Permanent Well Stimulation Treatment Regulations (“Permanent Regulations”) go into effect as planned on July 1. This makes sense, as these regulations, which implement Senate Bill 4, are widely regarded as the toughest regulations on “well stimulation” activities – including hydraulic fracturing — in the nation.

Monterey is the latest oil-producing California County to reject a local “ban” on fracking.

Voters in Santa Barbara County, which has significant oil production, and whose residents are very familiar with fracking and its significant benefits and minimal impacts, last year defeated an attempted ban by an overwhelming 26 percentage points.

It’s telling that in the areas of our state that produce oil and gas, where people live and work, bans on energy development have been soundly defeated. It is only in areas that have little or no oil or gas production, and have few jobs that depend on it – Mendocino Co., San Benito Co., Marin Co., etc. — that activists have pushed through symbolic “bans.”

Monterey Supervisors noted, correctly, that there is “no evidence of an immediate threat to public health.” As the Monterey Herald reported:

“Supervisor Simon Salinas, whose South County district includes active oil fields, counseled waiting on any local rules until the state has a chance to complete its work.

‘We can’t regulate the (oil and gas) industry county by county,’ Salinas said. ‘I think we ought to give (the state) a chance and then monitor it.’”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has never directly regulated hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, and has recognized that the states are the best regulators of this process given their vast disparities in geology. So, too, it has always been the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) of the Department of Conservation that has been the primary regulator of fracking in California. Depending on where they are located, California oil and gas companies are subject to regulation by nearly 20 other federal, state and local agencies as well.

At the meeting, local representatives of deep-pocketed national activist groups attended and cited supposed environmental harms that have not, in more than 60 years and 1.2 million fracking operations, materialized. They also took it a step further, attacking the ability and integrity of state regulators. Activists citied water use and seismicity as concerns, though it is well-established that the water used in hydraulic fracturing is negligible compared to nearly all other uses (and even produces water that helps the agriculture industry mitigate the drought).  Further, to date, there has never been a felt seismic event linked to either fracking or produced water injection in our fault-laden state.

These activist groups, it should be noted, opposed our strictest-in-the-nation regulations because they weren’t extreme enough.

Supervisors heard about the realities of energy development in Monterey (which includes the fact that a hydraulic fracturing operation hasn’t occurred in the county in more than a decade) and its many benefits not only from industry representatives but also from oilfield workers themselves.

A group of local employees from Key Energy took the day off work to talk about their commitment to protecting the environment of the county in which they live and raise their families. Local residents spoke in favor of safe and regulated development, good-paying jobs and the energy independence that goes with in-state production.

The majority of Monterey Co. Supervisors stayed the course, preferring not to turn their backs on the benefits of development while supporting strict and well-enforced regulation.

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