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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Sierra Club Submits Comment Letter to DOGGR Re Fracking

November, 2014

Sierra Club California has submitted a letter drafted by National legal staff to the Department of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) with comments regarding the second revision of its proposed regulations for well stimulation and fracking. The letter is very clear and easy to follow and may be helpful for understanding the impacts of Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) on DOGGR regulations. In summary, this letter says that the second revision did not cure the deficiencies that were cited by the Club in the earlier draft on July 28, 2014. Highlights include these deficiencies:

Monterey County Sierra Club wants a moratorium in Monterey County to protect wildlife and landscapes like this in South County. (Photograph: Steve Zmak).

1. DOGGR should provide additional clarity regarding the scope of waters that are protected, or the process for determining which waters are protected.

2. Information disclosure and public notice: The public is directed to use the website FracFocus for information. The legislature explicitly instructed DOGGR to use this site as an interim measure as it suffers numerous limitations that make it an inappropriate substitute for mandatory public disclosures.

3. DOGGR should extend the period between neighbor notification and well stimulation treatment to 45 calendar days and tenants, in addition to property owners, must be afforded the right to request water quality testing at the operator's expense.

4. The second revision inexplicably relaxes the seismic monitoring and reporting requirements. Whereas the first revision set a threshold of 2.0 on the Richter for both monitoring and cautionary action, the second revision raises this to 2.7. DOGGR has not provided any basis for concluding that this threshold is adequately protective. The Club believes it should be 1.0.

Because DOGGR has still not adequately regulated fracking, water quality impacts and human health impacts now go unmeasured in California, but fracking in other states shows that fracking is a human health hazard for both oil and gas field workers and people living near oil and gas fields. Sierra Club's position is in favor of a moratorium on fracking and other enhanced drilling techniques, to remain in place at least until adequate State regulations are in place. (Full SCC letter PDF here).

Attention: In order to give a sense of the current chaos in the regulation of oil drilling and oil drilling water-water disposal in CA, we recount a story from the Bakersfield area reported this past summer:

In early July 2014, DOGGR issued cease and desist orders (CDOs) applying to 11 oil industry "disposal wells" east and northeast of Bakersfield California. These 11 disposal wells are all within one mile of roughly 100 water supply wells. Some of these oil drilling waste disposal wells are also within the 500 foot depth were ground water aquifers are generally understood to be capable of producing potable water for human use and for agricultural irrigation. In all, scores of these injection wells are under investigation for possible toxic contamination of ground water.

DOGGR has approved shallow injection, oil wastewater disposal wells going back to the 1970s. Apparently the current statewide drought has focused attention on the wisdom of this reckless practice.

In 2011 the federal Environmental Protection Agency raised concerns about several aspects of DOGGR's oversight of so called "Underground Injection Control Disposal Projects." The EPA asserted that DOGGR was being too lenient regarding the kind of ground water that should be protected. Some poorly mapped aquifers are regarded by DOGGR as unprotected water. EPA also raised questions of what distances were necessary between oil waste injection disposal wells and ground water wells in other to protect the state's water resources from toxic contamination. With high-pressure injection, toxic waste can be driven through faults and fissures in geologic strata.

Information Sources: John Cox, "Bakersfield Californian", July 3, 2014, and Dan Bacher, Daily Kos, July 21, 2014



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