SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A hotly contested bill that would impose California's first regulations on fracking and other oil production practices passed the state Assembly on Wednesday, despite opposition from environmentalists and oil companies.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the practice of injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to crack rock formations and free up oil and natural gas. The technology makes it possible for oil companies to unlock California's vast Monterey Shale deposit, which is estimated to hold 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil.
Under the bill, passed by a vote of 47-17, companies would be required to obtain permits for fracking as well as acidizing, the use of hydrofluoric acid and other chemicals to dissolve shale rock. Oil company executives have previously said acidizing could be even more useful than fracking in getting at the Monterey Shale reserves.
The bill would also require notification of neighbors, public disclosure of the chemicals used, as well as groundwater and air quality monitoring and an independent scientific study.
The study would evaluate potential risks such as groundwater and surface water contamination, greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollution, seismic impacts, and effects on wildlife, native plants and habitat.
"There are still many unanswered questions about the use and impacts of fracking and acidizing, and it is in the interest of all Californians to monitor and regulate these practices," said state Senator Fran Pavley, an Aurora Hills Democrat who wrote the bill, SB 4. "Ultimately the oil industry, not the public, should be held accountable for the costs of these activities."
The bill was opposed by environmental groups that wanted to see an outright ban on fracking in the state.
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