Sacramento
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California’s Capitol.

Fracking will finally be regulated in California after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill that annoyed drillers but also left environmentalists despondent over its mediocrity.

At issue is a nascent effort to frack the Monterey Shale, believed to hold the nation’s largest on-shore oil deposit. (Frackers in the Northeast normally target natural gas; in California, fracking is for oil extraction.) One of 10 fracking-related bills introduced in the state legislature this year called for a five-year moratorium, which was watered down to a one-year stoppage, and then the bill died. It wasn’t alone: Eight other bills fell by the wayside until there was just one left standing: SB4, sponsored by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D).

Some environmentalists cautiously supported the bill until it was gutted at the last minute amid an oil-industry lobbying frenzy; language was dropped that would have effectively put all fracking on hold until environmental reviews were completed. That change led to a collapse in green support.

Al Jazeera explains the amended legislation:

The bill from Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, requires drillers to disclose the chemicals used and acquire permits before they use hydraulic fracturing. The process involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into deep rock formations to release oil or natural gas. …

Other provisions of the legislation, which will take effect in January, will require oil companies to test ground water and notify neighboring landowners before drilling. State officials will have to complete a study by January 2015 evaluating risks of fracking and other well-stimulation techniques, such as using acid to break apart oil-rich rocks.

And here is the L.A. Times with a rundown of reactions:

Oil industry reaction was muted. Companies complained that the regulations go further than they thought necessary for safe drilling.

But Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Assn., a trade group, welcomed the chance to continue exploring oil-rich areas in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley. …

Most environmental groups wanted a veto. The governor’s action “is disappointing,” said Kathryn Phillips, California director of the Sierra Club. “This bill does not provide the kind of protection or approach to fracking that we need.”

Brown signed the bill on Friday, noting in his signing statement that it “needs some clarifying amendments,” which he will “work with the author in making” next year. What amendments does he think are needed? He didn’t say.