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By Colby Bermel, POLITICO

June 17, 2021

FRACKING FRACAS: How much fracking is there in California? Industry organizations and environmental advocates are in rare agreement that the state’s oil and gas regulator has vastly underestimated its use as the state prepares to ban the technique by 2024.

Newsom has repeatedly said that fracking accounts for “less than 2 percent” of California oil production. Industry groups counter that it’s actually 17 percent, noting that the state doesn’t count the vast majority of fracked wells that started operating before strict regulations went into effect six years ago. 

The difference comes down to middle school math: fractions. The state divides those newer fracked wells — the only ones it counts — by all of California’s oil production, from wells new and old, to get that 2 percent figure. (The agency actually puts it at 2.6 percent, and if we’re being sticklers, that rounds to 3 percent.) The state has yet to explain why it made an apples-to-oranges comparison. 

Industry and environmentalists have their own reasons to gripe about the state’s lax tracking and arguably bad math. Fossil fuel companies say the undercount will have a detrimental effect on energy supply and union jobs. Green groups say the lowballing leaves the state unable to fully assess the extent of fossil fuel activity, given that fracking boosts the output of other production methods like steam flooding and water flooding.

Regulators are “trying to minimize the amount of fracking that goes on because they want to minimize the problem,” Consumer Watchdog advocate Liza Tucker asserts. “You don’t look for something, you don’t find it.” — Colby Bermel

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