California Regulator To Oil Industry: Stop Injecting Wastewater Into Central Valley Aquifers By Year End Or Face Heavy Fines
December 30, 2016 (Oakland, California)—Following ongoing campaigning by environmental groups including Clean Water Action, California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has given seven companies, including Chevron, until December 31 to end their practice of injecting wastewater and other fluids into California’s aquifers, or face stiff fines.
The ruling covers 10 California aquifers that were historically used by the companies to discharge wastewater from drilling operations, despite federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protections.
The 10 aquifers were supposed to be protected by the state of California, but officials believed that the oil companies had obtained so called “aquifer exemptions” under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, at the federal level. It only emerged in 2014 after three decades of aquifer injection by the companies that EPA had never granted the exemptions, in the first place.
This week’s order is part of a statewide crackdown on illegal injection calling on oil companies to halt injections, or obtain aquifer exemptions, in at least 50 other aquifers in California by February 15, 2017. Recent studies indicate that injection activity may have caused earthquakes over the last 33 years.
A spokesperson for DOGGR has been quoted saying 30 active injection wells must be closed by Dec. 31, or the agency will pursue legal action and/or penalties against the firm, with violations carrying fines of up to $25,000 per day, per well.
Clean Water Action's California Oil and Gas Program Manager Keith Nakatani said: “We applaud DOGGR’s decision to protect these potential sources of drinking water. Although these wells should have never been permitted in the first place, shutting down potentially polluting wells is an important step forward. The state must now work to assess any damage that may have occurred as a result of this illegal injection. Hundreds of additional wells continue to inject into non exempt aquifers. DOGGR must enforce the upcoming deadline in February and shut any illegal injection wells that have not obtained an exemption.”
Andrew Grinberg, National Campaigns Special Projects Manager for Clean Water Action, said: “Mismanagement of EPA’s aquifer exemption program threatens sources of drinking water in many states. California, in working with EPA to reform its program, has shown there is a path forward for improving oversight on oil and gas injection activities. EPA should work with other states to increase protection of drinking water sources from oil and gas activities and move to swiftly identify and shut down any wells that are injecting into non exempt aquifers.”
Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. The organization has 50,000 members in California. Visit the website at www.cleanwateraction.org and follow on Twitter at @cleanh2oactionca