Questions about Fracking? The Answer is Probably “I Don’t Know”
Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Colorado have been in the national news a lot with water problems resulting from gas and oil companies using a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Did you know we here in California are also using, and have been using, fracking for a long time, too? While industry leaders claim that the fracking process used in California is a totally different ballgame than what’s been seen in Pennsylvania and the Rocky Mountain states because of the different geology, what is most concerning is how little oversight there is in California.
Just last week, the Sacramento Bee ran an article showing just how hush-hush the whole process is. While a bill was proposed last year that would require drilling companies to disclose what they put into the ground, nothing has been passed. Likewise, there are still no rules being drawn up on the extraction method. California regulators claim that the existing environmental laws protect the drinking water, but they also admit that they have very little information about the scale or practice of fracking within the state. So, how do they really know that the water is being protected? In most cases, the communities have been left to their own devices to figure out how to handle any questions or problems that arise.
It’s a touchy battle here in our state. California is the fourth-largest oil producing state in the nation, with the largest oil shale formation in the continental U.S. In fact, 64% of our nation’s deep-rock oil deposits are right here. In an attempt to boost the state’s lagging economy, the government has eased rules for oil drilling in California and is expediting permits. In spite of their best attempts to find a balance, many questions remain: Where is the fracking taking place; How often is fracking used; What are the risks associated with the way fracking is being performed? It is highly disturbing when regulators have very few answers and blame “limited data” and “no reporting requirements”. The energy industry balks at answering those questions, arguing that full disclosure would compromise valuable trade secrets and give their competition an unfair advantage. How does that help us feel safe as we pour another glass of water? Is “I don’t know” really a viable answer when it comes to your drinking water?
We agree, we have a tough call to make. None of us like the high prices of petroleum products and having to import so much, but we also don’t want to join the “fire water” states either. In the mean time, we’d like to help you find options to ensure that the water your family uses is safe and healthy. There are many options from whole house water treatment to under the counter drinking water systems to office water coolers. A free, basic water test can reveal much about your water and what type of system you need to have peace of mind.
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