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Department of Conservation stops injection of fracking waste
by Dan Bacher
Sunday Jul 20th, 2014 4:51 PM
According to Abraham Lustgarten of Pro Publica, "California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state's drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there."

Photo: Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, opens the big anti-fracking rally in Sacramento with a ceremony and prayer on March 15. Photo by Dan Bacher.
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Department of Conservation stops injection of fracking waste

by Dan Bacher

In a move welcomed by anti-fracking activists, the California Department of Conservation has shut down oil and gas water injection sites over concerns that toxic waste from hydraulic fracturing operations may be threatening drinking water supplies during a historic drought.

According to Abraham Lustgarten of ProPublica, "California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state's drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there." (http://www.propublica.org/article/ca-halts-injection-fracking-waste-warning-may-be-contaminating-aquifers)

"The state's Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal 'poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources," said Lustgarten. "The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells."

"The problem is that at least 100 of the state's aquifers were presumed to be useless for drinking and farming because the water was either of poor quality, or too deep underground to easily access," Lustgarten continued. "Years ago, the state exempted them from environmental protection and allowed the oil and gas industry to intentionally pollute them. But not all aquifers are exempted, and the system amounts to a patchwork of protected and unprotected water resources deep underground. Now, according to the cease and desist orders issued by the state, it appears that at least seven injection wells are likely pumping waste into fresh water aquifers protected by the law, and not other aquifers sacrificed by the state long ago."

Anti-fracking activists praised the Department's move to stop injection of fracking waste, but emphasized that the Brown administration needs to go further and ban fracking.

"This action shows that there are growing concerns about groundwater contamination and that fracking and the injection of fracking waste water cannot be done safely," said Hillary Aidun, Anti-Fracking Organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's important that DOGGR is taking groundwater contamination seriously. But what we need is for Governor Brown to ban fracking altogether."

This shutdown and review of fracking operations exposes the falseness of claims by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), and other oil industry officials that fracking is safe and causes no environmental harm.

"WSPA's position on hydraulic fracturing is well known and well documented: in the 60 years that the practice has been in use in California, there has been no evidence that it has caused harm to public health or to the environment," said Reheis-Boyd in her blog on the WSPA website in 2013, prior to the passage of Senate Bill 4, the greenlight to fracking bill. "Hydraulic fracturing is also subject to strict rules and oversight by various government agencies, with the industry working with regulators to further strengthen safety and transparency requirements." (http://www.wspa.org/blog/index.php/wspa-message/the-other-side-of-the-hydraulic-fracturing-debate/)

Ironically, Reheis-Boyd, the same oil industry lobbyist who is leading the charge to expand fracking in California, also served as chair of the state panel that created a series of so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California. In an extreme conflict of interest, Reheis-Boyd chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)

The Western States Petroleum Association President also “served” on the task forces to craft alleged “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012, as well as on a federal marine protected areas since 2003.

Meanwhile, the oil industry fracked Southern California ocean waters at least 203 times over the past 20 years, according to an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) investigation released last year. Much of the fracking occurred during the time that Reheis-Boyd served as a state and federal marine "protection" official. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

It is no surprise that the so-called "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative, privately funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/28/big-oil-lobbyist-serves-on-federal-marine-protected-areas-panel/)

Public comment period for revised fracking rules ends July 28

The 60-day public comment period for revised regulations governing fracking and other well stimulation methods authorized under Senate Bill 4 will end on July 28, 2014 - the day before the public comment period for the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels will end.

Three public comment hearings will be also conducted at the following times and places:
• Sacramento – July 21, 4:00pm – 7:00pm. Natural Resources Agency Auditorium, 1416 Ninth Street.
• Salinas – July 23, 4:00pm – 7:00pm. National Steinbeck Center, Salinas Room, One Main Street.
• Bakersfield – July 23, 4:00pm – 7:00pm. Kern County Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, 1115 Truxtun Avenue

Public hearings were already held in Santa Maria on July 15 and Long Beach on July 17.

The hearings will take place just days after a Pro Publica investigation revealed that state officials have ordered an emergency closure of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review of over 100 others in the San Joaquin Valley, fearing that oil companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxics into drinking water aquifers in Kern County.

The majority of California environmental groups opposed Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4 because it gave the green light to the expansion of the water-intensive practice of fracking or hydraulic fracturing in the state.

The California Department of Conservation has revised the text of the proposed regulations in the rulemaking action entitled SB 4 Well Stimulation Treatment Regulations. A public comment period on the originally proposed regulations was held from November 15, 2013 through January 14, 2014, pursuant to the Notice of Proposed Regulatory Action mailed to interested parties and published in the California Regulatory Notice Register on November 15, 2013 (Register 2014, No. 46-Z, 11/15/2013).

Public comments were also accepted orally at five public comment hearings conducted during the public comment period. Anti-fracking activists packed the hearings to show their opposition to the expansion of the water-intensive practice of fracking during a record drought.

The revised text of the proposed regulations is now available on the Department’s internet website at http://www.conservation.ca.gov/index/Pages/prpsregs.aspx , and may also be obtained by contacting Tim Shular, Regulations Manager, by phone at (916) 322-3080, or by mail or email at the address listed below.

The following documents are being added to the rulemaking record for the above referenced SB 4 Well Stimulation Treatment Regulations rulemaking:
1. Well Stimulation Treatment Neighbor Notification Form (1/15 version)
2. Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources Discussion of Calculated Volume Threshold

These documents are available for inspection on the Department’s internet website at http://www.conservation.ca.gov/index/Pages/prpsregs.aspx, and may also be obtained by contacting Tim Shular, Regulations Manager, by phone at (916) 322-3080, or by mail or email at the address listed below.

According to the Department, "Any interested person, or his or her authorized representative, may submit written comments to the Department related to the revisions to the proposed text of the regulations or regarding the documents added to the rulemaking record."

Comments may be submitted by email to DOGGRRegulations [at] conservation.ca.gov, by facsimile (FAX) to (916) 324-0948, or by mail to:
Department of Conservation
801 K Street, MS 24-02
Sacramento, CA 95814
ATTN: Well Stimulation Regulations

The written comment period closes at 5:00 p.m. on July 28, 2014. The Department will consider only comments received at the Department’s offices by that time.

Public comment hearings: "During the public comment period, public comment hearings will be conducted for the purpose of allowing people to submit comments orally," according to the Department. "At the public comment hearings, any interested person, or his or her authorized representative, may present oral or written comments to the Department related to the revisions to the proposed text of the regulations or regarding the documents added to the rulemaking record."