BAKERSFIELD - By this time next year, state officials say a new layer of oil well regulations will take effect. These rules will help monitor the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
Monday morning, the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce held a breakfast where they spoke about the future of Kern County fracking.
According to state oil representatives, a quarter of California's oil wells are fractured. Most of those are in Kern County, but yet many feel it is a misunderstood practice.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process that's been used in Kern county for the past 60 years in places like Lost Hills and now Shafter. But recent concern about its safety has raised questions which is why the Bakersfield Chamber brought together an expert panel to talk about the process.
"I wanted to be a part of this panel so I could give a perspective to the business community about what hydraulic fracturing really is," said Suzanne Noble of the Western States Petroleum Association.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process where oil companies inject water and chemicals deep into the ground to break up rock and allow oil to flow. Some call it fracking but that's a term one of the panel's experts found inappropriate.
"Using the word fracking has a negative connotation," said Noble. "Sometimes the public responds to that before they actually know and have the information and the facts on the issue."
The panel took questions about the amount of water and chemicals used and regulations.
"We actually regulate fracking but we don't have fracking regulations," said Mark Nechodom, Director of the California Department of Conservation.
Nechodom is referring to the fact that California regulates oil drilling but not specifically the practice of fracking. But the Department of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources is working to change that, hoping to have regulations by this time next year.
"That is our hope," said Nechodom.
The new regulations would require oil companies to acknowledge which wells they frack and what chemicals they use, unless it's a trade secret. Will those changes affect Kern County oil companies? Yes, but regulators say it's not significant.
"It will change how operators report hydraulic fracturing as part of their oil well operation but it's not going to be a major change in terms of economic activity or burden," said Nechodom.