In keeping up with the tradition of waiting until the public is not paying attention, the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), released their latest draft regulations for fracking, and other unconventional well stimulation on Friday, June 13, at 4:00PM local time – right before the weekend.
As required by SB4, DOGGR updated the proposed permanent regulations, which were released in November 2013, right before Thanksgiving. Earthworks, along with our partner organizations in California, submitted extensive comments that would enhance the regulations, and truly protect Californians' health and the environment.
Although there were some improvements, DOGGR seems to have missed the mark once again, and continues proposing regulations that prioritize oil industry profits ahead of public health.
In the new draft, DOGGR enhances some protections, including:
- Increased water quality monitoring before and after well stimulation, with costs covered by the industry.
- Requirements for the industry to disclose the sources of water it is using for well stimulation.
- Increased collaboration and information sharing between state agencies.
- Additional disclosure protections for people living in proximity to well stimulation. Information will also be provided in Spanish.
- Reporting of all acid stimulation treatments, not just those with an acid concentration of 7% or higher.
Perhaps the most notable improvement in the regulations is the requirement to monitor seismic activity in the vicinity of all well stimulation. The industry must report any earthquake with a magnitude of 2.0 and above, and coordinate efforts with the California Integrated Seismic Network to determine if fracking caused the seismic activity, and if the integrity of the well has been compromised. The rule also specifies that no new fracking shall occur in that area until an evaluation of the seismic activity has been completed.
This part of the rule is a huge achievement for Californians. Hydraulic fracturing and underground wastewater injection have been scientifically linked to seismic activity all over the world. In our recent report, On Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California, we analyzed the dangers that these practices could bring to the Golden State, and recommended ways that the state can safeguard against increased earthquakes from fracking and underground wastewater injection.
Yet many gaps remain. The updated regulations do little to truly protect California’s air and water quality, prevent increased emissions of greenhouse gases, or defend the state’s most vulnerable populations.
- The regulations give DOGGR discretion to exclude certain projects from permitting.
- DOGGR has the authority to provide “single project approval” for multiple wells, meaning that multiple fracking jobs can be approved under a single permit, skipping proper environmental review.
- Tenants of properties are not allowed to ask the industry to cover the costs of water testing and monitoring. Only property owners are allowed to do this. This leaves renters near fracked wells vulnerable.
- No setbacks are established to limit or exclude well stimulation near homes, schools, sources of water, protected areas, or other sensitive receptors.
- There are no protections against air quality contaminants that result from the construction and production phase of fracked wells.
- No data collection is required to understand the effects that increased fracking and fossil fuel consumption will have on climate change.
- Lack of appropriate protections exist to safeguard surface and groundwater sources from produced water, including the prohibition of unlined or open-air pits.
The release of the updated permanent regulations begins a 45-day public comment period. You can make a difference, submit your comments today! Comments must be submitted by 5 PM on July 28, 2014.
Public hearings are also being held throughout the state:
- Santa Maria – July 15, 4:00pm – 7:00pm. Santa Barbara County Supervisors’ Hearing Room, 511 East Lakeside Pkwy.
- Long Beach – July 17, 4:00pm – 7:00pm. Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.
- 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.
Earthworks will continue reviewing the regulations and will provide detailed comments to DOGGR on how it can further strengthen the regulations, and protect all Californians. Additionally, we call on Governor Jerry Brown to use his executive authority and implement an immediate moratorium on well stimulation, until a final study on the effects of this practice are fully understood. A recent poll found that 68% of Californians support a moratorium on fracking. We call on the Governor to heed their call.