SAN FRANCISCO –- An environmental group has filed suit against the state of California for doing what it deemed an insufficient job of regulating the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
In a complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court earlier this week, the Arizona-based Center For Biological Diversity charged that the agency tasked with regulating energy production, the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has "[issued] permits for oil and gas well operations...without tracking, monitoring or otherwise supervising the high-risk, unconventional injection practice."
"State regulators aren't complying with existing law, which requires the disclosure of the chemicals and total volume of water being used as well as the completion of a thorough engineering study," the Center For Biological Diversity's Kassie Siegel told The Huffington Post.
Fracking, the process of pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well to access oil and natural gas, has been taking place in California since the 1950s. But recent breakthroughs in the area of horizontal drilling, which allow energy producers to target specific layers of rock with never-before-seen accuracy, have significantly increased both the prevalence of the practice and environmental concerns about its side effects.
The new lawsuit seeks to compel DOGGR to regulate fracking under the California's underground injection control laws, a set of rules that would likely subject energy producers to significantly more safety precautions and public disclosure.
But energy insiders claim the state has already been sufficiently regulating the practice. Zierman defended the practice, saying, "We have been doing fracking safely in California for a many decades," Rock Zierman, CEO of California Independent Petroleum Association, told HuffPost. "I don't think this lawsuit acknowledges that."
DOGGR reports it has yet to encounter any instances in California where fracking fluid, which environmental group Food And Water Watch noted often contains up to ten carcinogenic chemicals, has leaked out and contaminated the surrounding environment.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, DOGGR declined to comment on the pending litigation, but pointed to a draft proposal released late last year that, if enacted, would create a new set of rules specifically governing fracking.
Those draft regulations, which will go through year-long period of public comment and revisions, would require companies engaged in fracking to take a number of safety precautions, many of which are already standard operating procedure in the industry. The rules would also force companies to disclose the specific chemicals used in fracking on the industry-run website FracFocus.org.
Critics of DOGGR's plan have complained that the disclosure requirements don't go nearly far enough in informing the public about fracking. Not only do they allow companies to withhold information based on trade secret protection, but they also lack a requirement to notify nearby landowners before fracking occurs.
"DOGGR is more interested in keeping the oil industry happy than protecting the public," Siegel charged.
A recent survey by California's largest energy industry group, the Western States Petroleum Association, found that 628 of the state's 47,000 active wells employ fracking.