Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Fall 2014, Vol. 23, No. 2

Local Control of Oil and Gas Operations: Getting a Handle on Fracking and Cyclic Steaming Through Land Use Prohibitions, Moratoria, Discretionary Permits, and Citizen Initiatives

by Heather Minner* and Peter Broderick**

Cities and Counties in California have long regulated oil and gas operations. Historically, these operations were limited to conventional recovery methods. But as oil fields tapped out, the industry responded by using technologies such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and steam injection to increase recovery and to expand development into previously inaccessible fields and formations.

These high-intensity operations are riskier and impose greater impacts on surrounding communities than conventional oil and gas development. They have also sparked oil and gas booms across the country, catching many local governments off guard.

Witnessing the impacts that fracking has caused in other states, and faced with a flood of new applications for cyclic steaming projects, California cities and counties are reexamining the adequacy of their existing zoning regulations to deal with these types of oil and gas operations. In Santa Barbara County and San Benito County, local citizens have taken matters into their own hands, placing initiative measures on the November 4, 2014 ballot.

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