Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown supports hydraulic fracturing

SAN FRANCISCO — If anyone had lingering doubts about where California Gov. Jerry Brown stands on fracking, the state’s top oil and gas regulator removed them on Friday.

Speaking at a panel discussion on fracking, the head of California’s Department of Conservation, Mark Nechodom, said the governor backs the oil-production technique. His comment came after the moderator asked each of the panel’s participants to spend five minutes discussing his or her organization’s position on fracking.

“I can probably save us five minutes,” Nechodom replied. “Gov. Brown supports hydraulic fracturing.” He then stopped talking, letting his statement sink in with the audience.

The department Nechodom leads includes California’s main agency for regulating oil and gas drilling — the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. The panel discussion was part of a regional meeting for the American Chemical Society, a professional association for chemists.

Brown’s support shouldn’t come as a surprise, to anyone following the politics of fracking in California.

The governor has resisted pressure from his supporters in the environmental community to slap a moratorium on fracking or impose an outright ban. Last month, he signed a fracking regulation bill that many environmentalists opposed as too weak. (The oil and gas industry didn’t like it much, either.)

But even in his brief signing statement on the bill, SB 4, Brown didn’t endorse fracking so much as endorse the regulations.

His public comments on the practice have been somewhat indirect. While he has acknowledged the concerns raised about possible drinking water contamination from fracking, Brown has also discussed how hydraulic fracturing could help unlock California’s immense Monterey Shale formation, estimated to hold more than 15 billion barrels of oil.

Many environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, are still calling on Brown to impose a moratorium. Sounds like it’ll be a tough sell.