The California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has released a thirteen page document containing proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), acidization and other well stimulation processes. Today begins the sixty day public comment period and marks the beginning of the formal rule making process which lasts three hundred and sixty five days. Those regulations will take affect January 1, 2015. In addition, DOGGR has begun the drafting of emergency regulations (so called because of the tight time frame with which they have to get them out and implemented) that will take affect on January 1, 2014.
These rules are mandated by the passage of SB 4 or The Pavley Bill, written by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). Beginning Jan 1, 2014 operators will have to certify that they have complied with notification (of neighbors within 1500 feet of the well bore destination and within 500 feet of the well surface location) rules disclosure requirements. The permit process changes in 2015 with an actual application and technical review that will occur prior to permit for well stimulation being approved.
(edited/corrected 11/19/13) The new regulations apply to "hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing, and acid matrix stimulation." The article does not apply to "underground injection projects." An underground injection project or disposal projects is defined - in these proposed regulations - as a "sustained or continual injection into one or more wells over an extended period in order to add fluid to a zone for the purpose of enhanced oil recovery, disposal or storage." Various projects that are not covered in the proposed regulations - which are aimed at regulated well stimulation processes - include "water flood injection, steam flood injection, cyclic steam injection, injection disposal and gas storage projects."
DOGGR expects to have to increase the fourteen cent per barrel assessment that is currently charged to all operators in the state in order to fund the implementation of the new rules.
“We’re pleased that the State has taken this important step towards providing more public disclosure and environmental safeguards for fracking in the Los Padres National Forest and throughout California,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch, an independent nonprofit organization that monitors oil drilling and fracking in the Sespe Oil Field. “But there’s still much work to be done. As the regulations are finalized over the course of the next year, we will continue to demand the strongest protections possible to guard against pollution and protect our forest’s watersheds. Our farms, our communities, and our wildlife depend on it.”
Friday morning DOGGR officials spoke with reporters on the phone regarding the proposed regulations and emphasized that while a complex body of laws has been in place for decades covering well integrity and construction the new laws create transparency by improving access to information.
"These regulations give us more information about [hydraulic fracturing] is used today," said Tim Kustic, director of DOGGR. "And going forward. This sets the stage for new and robust regulations." He emphasized that industry has already voluntarily disclosed 1000 fracking jobs in the state on the website fracfocus. DOGGR will use fracfocus in the interim while it develops it's own online database for reporting well stimulation processes.
"One of the successes of SB4 is that it will increase our understanding of ground water," said Jason Marshall, chief deputy director with the Department of Conservation.
Also on the call was Tom Howard, executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board. An important part of the SB4 creates for the first time ever in the state requirements for the ground water management plan, and testing for ground water baseline quality.
Howard explained that the state water board will be entering into a rulemaking process as well as they implement the aspects of SB4 that apply to testing and monitoring of the ground water - SB4 actually creates an addition to the state water code.
Public hearings are scheduled throughout the state. AT this time there is no hearing scheduled in Ventura County, but Sen. Pavley has requested that one be held, Nechodom indicated they are considering that, but that a workshop will take place in Ventura County as the scoping progresses regarding the environmental impact study on hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation practices.
“It is irresponsible for the oil industry to continue fracking our national forest until the regulations are finalized and adequate safeguards are in place to protect our watersheds,” said Kuyper. “ The Sespe Creek watershed is one of our region’s most ecologically sensitive areas, and every precaution should be taken to protect this important resource.”
Visit the DOGGR website to review the text of the proposed regulations and for information on the hearings.