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Calif. panel launches probe into offshore fracking

An oil drilling platform of Venoco, Inc. has operated near Santa Barbara, Calif. The state offshore fracking at its meeting on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. A recent Associated Press report found that federal regulators approved fracking off the California shoreline on at least a dozen occasions since the late 1900s.(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

An oil drilling platform of Venoco, Inc. has operated near Santa Barbara, Calif. The state offshore fracking at its meeting on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. A recent Associated Press report found that federal regulators approved fracking off the California shoreline on at least a dozen occasions since the late 1900s.(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

LOS ANGELES — California regulators have launched an investigation into offshore hydraulic fracturing after revelations that the practice had quietly occurred off the coast for the past two decades.

The California Coastal Commission promised to investigate the extent of so-called fracking in federal and state waters and any potential risks.

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‘‘We take our obligation to protect the marine environment very seriously, and we’re going to be looking at this very carefully,’’ executive director Charles Lester said Thursday during the commission meeting.

As a first step, the coastal panel planned to ask oil companies proposing new offshore drilling jobs whether they will be using fracking and require them to submit an environmental review. It will determine further action after completing its fact-finding mission.

A recent report by the Associated Press documented at least a dozen instances of fracking since the late 1990s in Santa Barbara Channel, site of a disastrous 1969 oil platform blowout that spurred the modern environmental movement.

Fracking involves pumping huge quantities of water, sand, and a mixture of chemicals at high pressures to break up rock formations to recover oil and gas. Offshore fracking typically uses less water compared with fracking on land, where the practice has led to various efforts to ban or curtail it.

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