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The nation should watch California’s leadership as the last bastion against excessive hydraulic fracturing of “fracking” as a method of oil extraction. On Tuesday, a state Senate panel approved a bill that would tightly regulate the drilling process.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee passed Senate Bill 4 on a 6-2 vote and was immediately attacked by fracking proponents as being “unnecessary”. They maintain that the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) already wrote draft regulations and is holding public hearings. DOGGR is accused of dragging its feet and writing a weak set of regulations.

One contentious area is the secrecy surrounding the fluid used to extract oil from shale deposits. The fluid is a mixture of sand, water and chemicals that is forced into the shale with enough force to push gas and oil up to the surface. The DOGGR regulations require some disclosure about the chemical mix, but has huge loopholes based on the proprietary nature of the chemical mix. Should it come to proving whether the chemicals have polluted any groundwater or caused illness, industrial secrecy gets in the way.

California can be expected to set the most stringent regulations possible to prevent the damage that unrestrained fracking has caused throughout the nation and in other countries. The current controversy involves the massive Monterey Shale field in central California.

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