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On September 20, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that will require regulations on fracking, acidizing, and other well stimulation techniques.

The law, known as SB4, requires a study of the potential impacts of well stimulation to be completed by January 1, 2015.  

In signing SB4 into law Governor Brown stated: “we ought to give science a chance before deciding on a ban on fracking,” and that the study will be “the most comprehensive environmental analysis of fracking to date.”

But five weeks later, Governor Brown said that the study may take as long as 18 months.

This delay threatens one of the signature accomplishments of SB4 – the study of acidization and fracking impacts, which would be the first in the nation. The delay simultaneously highlights one of SB4’s biggest failings: it permits fracking and acidization to occur even though we don’t know how much it threatens environmental and public health. In effect, SB4 acquiesces Californians status as fracking guinea pigs.

On November 15, DOGGR is set to release draft regulations for fracking; regulations that will undoubtedly be friendly to the industry. These regulations will be in place until the results of the study are released, leaving California at the mercy of the oil industry.

Beyond just the delay, we have cause for concern about the quality of the study because of the agency in charge of it.  Filled with political appointees, the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), has for decades ignored the environmental and health risks of oil and gas. And, as typical with state oil and gas regulatory agencies across the country, DOGGR lacks the manpower and funding to oversee the state’s 50,000+ active wells, not to mention the thousands of new wells that may be drilled in the Monterey Shale over the next few years.

Governor Brown is correct that more time might allow for a more comprehensive review, but in order to increase credibility of the study, it should be conducted by an independent agency with no ties to the oil industry – one that does not succumb to political pressure. Until the study is complete, a moratorium on well stimulation activities until the “science has a chance to work,” will help protect Californians' health and environment. It is time to put communities first.

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