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California Officials Look to Quantify Risks of Federal Government's Offshore Fracking

Sep 11, 2013

Environmental officials in California want to know how much hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling the federal government has been conducting off its coastline.

According to an Associated Press (AP) report, the California Coastal Commission wants to know if the fracking drilling that offshore oil rigs are conducting is increasing the risk of an offshore oil spill. The Commission has asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Interior to look into the practice to determine that risk.

The federal government told California officials that fracking from offshore oil rigs has only happened “a dozen” times since the 1990s, although California officials believe offshore oil rig fracking incidents have occurred at a larger rate, which in turn increases the risk of an oil spill, according to AP.

California lawmakers are considering imposing regulations on fracking drilling going forward, the AP also reports. The state – like other states – is most concerned about the impact of widespread, high-volume fracking drilling on the environment.

We’ve been reporting on the dangers associated with fracking drilling for natural gas and oil for several years and have documented many of the risks that have already been imposed on people living closest to active fracking wells.

Fracking drilling is the search amid underground shale formations for natural gas and oil. A well shaft extends from the surface to the rock. A drill guided by hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, sand, and a mix of several hundred chemicals is sent through the well shaft until it reaches and blasts apart the rock, releasing mostly methane gas that is processed into natural gas for consumers.

Critics of this drilling process say that faults in well construction, untested fracking methods, inexperienced well workers and the earth’s own natural faults could lead to the leaking of drilling fluid – which includes the mix of several hundred chemicals – and methane gas during the drilling process. This has led to localized, as well as some widespread contamination of groundwater supplies and private water wells, according to our previous reports.

We’ve also noted the struggles of private residents who live in close proximity to fracking drilling. Those living in places like Pennsylvania, where thousands of active fracking wells are established, say that the drilling activity contaminates their water and pollutes their air – while also putting a strain on natural resources.

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