Fracking: How risky for us?

California is believed to have more than 15 billion barrels of oil locked within the rocks under the Central Valley that might be used to feed the nation's energy hunger — if oil companies can free it with hydraulic fracturing. 

Fracking, as the practice is popularly called, has been going on in the state for years, but mostly in a remote oil field in Kern County. The prospect of extensive new fracking efforts in the 1,750-square-mile geological formation known as the Monterey Shale, which extends roughly from Modesto to Bakersfield, calls for long-overdue study and regulation of how this production method might affect air and water quality, as well as seismic safety.

The process involves injecting fluids, usually large amounts of water mixed with sand and/or chemicals, at high pressure to fracture the rock and release the fuel. According to a March report by USC, fracking of the Monterey Shale could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, at least temporarily, and boost tax revenues to the state by billions of dollars. But at what cost?

In a state as environmentally aware as California, it's alarming how little state government has done to learn about or oversee the practice. Two years ago, the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources admitted in a letter that it was "unable to identify" where and how often hydraulic fracturing occurs, how much fresh water is being used for it — though it estimated about 70,000 barrels per well — whether it is being carried out safely or what chemicals are being used.

Read full text at LA Times