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Fracking for natural gas is perceived as an issue east of the Rocky Mountains - Texas, North Dakota, and the Marcellus Shale. California runs on natural gas and hydropower. Fracking is happening in California, but it's a secret.

How much of a secret? The state literally doesn't know:

Its actual words were: "The Division is unable to identify where and how often hydraulic fracturing occurs within the state." It also said that "the Division has not yet developed regulations to address this activity."
A February 2012 report (PDF) by the Environmental Working Group found that the state has long turned a blind eye to fracking. Its regulators have simply asked the frackers, nicely, to make voluntary disclosures. In Ventura County, the voluntary disclosures show that one well has been fracked, but the state estimates that virtually all of the 240 wells in a local field have been fracked.

The state is planning a new set of regulations. For now, it's wiped its website clean of fracking information. It's holding workshops up and down the state, ostensibly to listen to the concerns of Californians before crafting new regulations.

I attended the one of the first workshops, held on May 30 in Ventura. A reporter estimated 175 people in attendance; I counted about 25 speakers in opposition to some degree (mostly calling for a ban), and 3 people (all involved in the industry) favoring fracking. By an interesting coincidence, every person who specified a desired regulation was asked to submit comments in writing, but every person who opposed fracking entirely was simply thanked with a pained smile and glazed eyes.

A Culver City workshop on June 12 had an even stronger response: the standing room only crowd of several hundred wanted a total ban. In Salinas on June 29, the strawberry growers' industry - not normally perceived as environmentally friendly - joined with greens to query fracking safety.  A Santa Maria workshop will take place tonight, with the final workshop July 25 in Sacramento.

There's a lot of reasons why fracking anywhere is a bad idea. There's a lot more specific reasons why a water-intensive process that may cause earthquakes is a bad idea in California. California has showcased alternatives, from distributed generation (rooftop) solar to massive desert solar. People who show up at workshops are speaking. Are the regulators listening?

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