On Wednesday, December 17, I gave a presentation to the Groundwater Resources Association (“GRA”). I reviewed the past year’s developments in California’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing and previewed my future predictions for the industry. Below is a summary of my talk and the power point presentation is attached here.
2014 was a thrill ride for both industry and regulators under SB 4, California’s first comprehensive hydraulic fracturing regulation. The Department of Conservation urged operators to hasten their actions, prepare well stimulation treatment notices early, and focused a lot of outreach efforts on landowner notification requirements. The Governor even quickly appointed a new Supervisor of the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources to help lead the implementation efforts for the Department. But as soon as January 2014, the reality of SB 4 implementation became evident: the State Water Resources Control Board’s take-it-slow approach, and the law’s requirement for approved groundwater monitoring plans as a precondition to an authorization to conduct operations, put the brakes on well stimulation treatments in the first half of the year. SB 4 threw the oil and gas industry into the frontlines of groundwater quality issues and shifted an incredible amount of regulatory authority from the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to the Water Board. The presentation reviewed the highs and lows of a very unpredictable past year for hydraulic fracturing regulation in California.