Some states are admitting that as oil exploration booms, pollution is a reality. It's a problem at the core of a controversial drilling practice known as fracking. We're learning how the discussion about the pollution could impact the Central Coast.
In a Center for Investigative Action follow-up file, we take a look at some new information as new regulations on the specialized way of drilling oil come closer to going into effect. The bill requires drilling companies to inform those living in "frackable areas" what could be happening in their backyards. That includes monitoring ground water for any contaminants injected into the ground.
These revelations about water pollution come at a critical time for California because there's only one week left in a public comment period of the new law. While many environmentalists have said creating regulations is a good step, they're still pushing for a ban on fracking, especially after more than 100 cases of water contamination are being confirmed from the South to the East Coast.
"We think this is just a wake up call for California, as our own oil industry prepares to start fracking in places like Monterey County,” said Patrick Sullivan with the Center for Biological Diversity, a group leading the pack to protect California from a fracking boom.
This month the Associated Press said it requested data on drilling-related complaints from Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Thousands of complaints on water-well contamination and confirmed cases were uncovered.
"We can go to Gov. Brown and we can say, 'Look! There's now more than 100 confirmed cases of water contamination.' We need to prevent this kind of thing from happening here in California," Sullivan said.
A few months ago a land management company told us that despite all the effort behind regulating fracking, it's still ready to help oil companies and land owners discover what lies beneath the surface.
"California is the third highest energy consuming state in the world. No. 1 is china, No. 2 is the U.S. and No. 3 is California, so the bottom line is having a big resource like the Monterey shale is a good thing for the state of California," said Jesse Hejny, co-founder of Purple Land Management.
There is some debate about the viability of the oil under the Monterey shale and Sullivan said the more information, the better.
"Some of these cases date back several years and no one in the states where these pollution incidents happened knew, except for the folks who were affected by the water supply," Sullivan said.
We briefly spoke with one local oil explorer who told us he's skeptical about the water contamination reports, but agrees oil operators should be monitored closely to protect communities from any pollution.