California Institute for Water Resources
California Institute for Water Resources
California Institute for Water Resources
University of California
California Institute for Water Resources

Trends in limiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing in California

Summary:

High-volume hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new and controversial form of natural gas and oil drilling that is poised for a boom in California. This type of fracking is water-intensive and could exacerbate water stress. The practice has also been connected to contamination of California aquifers. Establishing local restrictions may be a way to protect the quantity and quality of California water resources, so it is important to understand the conditions that facilitate or inhibit such restrictions. This project uses quantitative modeling to investigate the factors affecting whether jurisdictions in California adopt policies limiting or banning the practice. The research results will provide actionable information to local government officials and to pro- and anti-fracking groups seeking to influence local decision-making.

Investigator:

Gwen Arnold
Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy
University of California, Davis

Project description:

This project will use quantitative modeling to investigate the factors affecting the likelihood that California municipalities and counties will adopt policies limiting or restricting high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF). HVHF is a relatively new form of natural gas and oil drilling poised for a boom in California. HVHF targets shale reserves, and California’s Monterey Shale contains roughly two-thirds of the nation’s recoverable shale oil. Concerns have grown over the drilling technique’s potentially adverse impacts to public health and the environment, particularly water resources. HVHF involves large water withdrawals that could exacerbate water stress, and the practice has been connected to contamination of California aquifers.

California’s sub-state jurisdictions are beginning to participate in a nationwide wave of local anti-HVHF policymaking. These policies are motivated in part by recognition that HVHF is expanding rapidly while many state regulatory agencies are moving slowly in attempts to manage HVHF. The policies are also motivated by grassroots opposition. Establishing local restrictions on HVHF may be an important way to protect the quantity and quality of California water resources, so it is critical to understand the conditions that facilitate or inhibit passage of such restrictions.

The project will use online surveys of local government officials to determine which sub-state jurisdictions in California are considering, have passed, or have attempted and failed to pass anti-HVHF policies. The surveys will be used to gather data on local perceptions of HVHF and characteristics of the jurisdictions which may help explain local policy adoption choices.

The research results will benefit local decision-makers who may be contemplating policy action on HVHF by informing them of the range of relevant policies passed by other jurisdictions and the conditions that appear to facilitate or inhibit passage. The results also will be immediately beneficial to pro- or anti-HVHF interest groups and advocates pressing their cause locally, as it will help them determine the jurisdictions most amenable to their efforts. 

Arnold

Fracking rig. (Department of Energy)

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