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Report: Fracking Risk to CA is Aquifer Contamination, Not Quakes

A hydraulic fracturing well in Kern County. The safety of fracking is the subject of a new report. Credit: California Council on Science and Technology.
A hydraulic fracturing well in Kern County. The safety of fracking is the subject of a new report. Credit: California Council on Science and Technology.
July 10, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif - A new report says hydraulic fracturing can contaminate groundwater when the excess water is not properly disposed of, but is not linked to earthquakes in California.

In January, a study by the Seismological Society of America linked a series of earthquakes in Ohio to fracking, and there have been similar claims in other states as well.

The new study released Thursday comes from the California Council on Science and Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Jane Long, the lead scientific researcher, says hydraulic fracturing poses some safety concerns but they're manageable.

"A lot of things people were concerned about are things that are not as big a problem as they think they are," says Long. "And some of the practices are things that need to change and need more attention."

The report says the oil companies should phase out percolation ponds used to dispose of excess water because toxic fracking chemicals can get into the aquifer. And it recommends companies put aside about a third of the chemicals currently in use because there's not enough data about them.

The Center for Biological Diversity points to the finding that oil operations can pollute the air in their immediate vicinity. Long is optimistic that the report will spur further reforms.

"Some of them are going to be recommendations that will be very easy to act on right away and I think they will be acted on and some of them are going to require some process," she says.

The report was required by the 2013 passage of State Senate Bill 4, which established new safety measures for fracking, rules that went into effect on July 1.

Suzanne Potter/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - CA