Environmentalists suing California for a complete ban on fracking

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The state of California is coming under increasing pressure from angry opponents of hydraulic fracturing. Environmental groups have sued the state in an attempt to stop the process, also known as ‘fracking’. This comes as regulators try to devise new rules for the controversial oil and gas extraction practice.

According the Reuters, the lawsuit accuses the regulator, the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, with failing to evaluate the risks, even though fracking was used for more than 600 wells in the state last year.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a relatively new drilling technology that’s revolutionized the energy industry and has caused significant health and environmental concerns. The process has brought massive supplies of fuel to the market. And the technology is now being used to unlock giant oil fields long considered too difficult to tap. But the practice has generated fierce debate across North America, leading to outright bans in some jurisdictions.

Reuters reports that a non-profit environmental law firm, Earthjustice, filed the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, Environmental Working Group and the Sierra Club.

“Public outcry has finally forced the Department to take a look at fracking,” Earthjustice attorney George Torgun reportedly said in a statement. “They’ve held workshops and say they’re considering regulations. But the problem needs attention now before too much damage is done.”

In July, the Department of Conservation hosted several workshops to discuss potential regulation. Reuters reports that these workshops were held in anticipation of increased horizontal drilling in the state, which combined with fracking has unlocked oil and gas reservoirs around the country.

Given the practice’s controversy, new rules are not expected to be finalized until mid-2013, reports Reuters. However, a draft set of rules are expected soon. Meanwhile, state legislation to stop fracking has received little support.

Reuters reports that the plaintiffs have asked that the regulator not allow any more fracking until it has prepared “programmatic” environmental impact reports to cover the practice in various types of wells around the state.

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