Today at 8:30 am Los Padres ForestWatch will makes its case to the Planning Commission as to why it should reverse the Planning departments two zoning approvals (done as a sort of "over the counter" approval - no public hearing, no public notice given as part of these approvals) of a total of seven new oil and gas wells in an area near Lake Piru and according to LPFW "both oil fields are nestled in remote, environmentally sensitive areas adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest, the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge and the Sespe Condor Sanctuary between the communities of Fillmore and Piru in Ventura County."
Click here to view the County Planning staff report.
The County received two letters in support of the appeal brought by ForestWatch, one from ForestWatch and one from Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG). And the County received one letter against the appeal, asking that the Planning Commission uphold the zoning approvals. This letter is below:
To watch the live broadcast - or video recording of the appeal hearing visit:
VC Planning Approves new wells at Punchbowl Trail near Thomas Aquinas college - Groups might appeal.
In a letter dated Feb. 17 and emailed to interested parties that evening, Ventura County Planning Director has announced the approval of project PL13-0150. The applicant California Resources Corporation (formerly Vintage Petroleum) will be allowed to drill 19 new wells in an area near Thomas Aquinas College in the Upper Ojai area along highway 150. This area is along the popular hiking trail leading to the "punchbowl" - a favorite swimming spot for local hikers.
The wells will be drilled on existing oil well pads, and in an oil field that is currently active. The project does not call for any new construction nor grading, but concerns were raised at the public hearing in January regarding environmental impacts and the need to a more thorough environmental review.
Click here to read more information about the project and the objections raised at the public hearing.
Those who may wish to file an appeal have ten days - until Feb. 27 - in which to do so before the decision takes effect. Two groups, Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas and Los Padres Forest Watch (both groups attended the initial public hearing in Jan and raised concerns at that time) indicated if their concerns were not addressed in conditions of approval they would likely file an appeal.
As of this morning, those groups had not yet confirmed whether they would file.
Here is the letter from Director Prillhart:
New findings show Cancer causing chemicals at toxic levels in Fracking flow back fluid - Where is that waste going?
The Center for Biological Diversity has combed through the testing results of flowback fluid and found high levels of cancer causing benzene and Chromium 6.
If Chromium 6 rings a bell you've probably seen the movie Erin Brokovich, about the woman who uncovered water contamination from Chromium 6 in the town of Hinkley, CA. That was with the local PG&E facility.
And this follows information being released regarding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation into oil field waste disposal injection wells and whether the State oil and gas regulators, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, allowed those wells to operate in aquifers which should have been protected from such activity - according to the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. That investigation is on going.
See the documents below for more information:
1) This is the press release dated Feb. 11 from the Center for Biological Diversity:
2) This is the letter from the EPA to CA State regulators. Note the EPA is giving the state until 2017 to fully comply.
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY REGION IX
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 941 05-3901
December 22, 2014
Chief Deputy Director
California State Water Resources Control Board P.O. Box 100
Sacramento, CA 95812-0100
Oil and Gas Supervisor
Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources California Department of Conservation
801 K Street, MS 18-05
Sacramento, CA 95814-3530
Dear Messrs. Bishop and Bohlen:
I am writing to follow up on EPA’s July 17, 2014 letter to CaIEPA and the Resources Agency regarding the State’s administration of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act Class II Oil and Gas Underground Injection Control program. In that letter, we described serious deficiencies in California’s Class II program and inconsistencies with federal UIC regulations and State Program primacy requirements. The letter also set forth comprehensive requirements and deadlines for the State to address the deficiencies and bring the program into compliance. Enclosed is a summary of the status of the State’s responses to the July 17 letter.
Our frequent dialogue and your efforts in the last six months have illuminated the breadth and complexity of the challenges and the substantial workload faced by the State agencies in overcoming the program’s deficiencies. The State’s submittals and conceptual plans presented since July are a step in the right direction. However, a more definitive overall plan of State actions and milestones is critically needed by February 6, 2015, to bring the Class II program into compliance by February 15, 2017.
This letter highlights the main areas of recent discussion and provides direction for the State’s submittal of a program revision plan by February 6, 2015. This plan should comprehensively address the results of EPA’s 2011 audit and 2012 review, and any other related reviews available to the State; assure completion of the outstanding items listed in the enclosure; provide a detailed list of planned actions based on a two-year schedule of tiered priorities, specific deliverables, interim and final milestones; and identify the resources to be deployed to accomplish this work.
Injection Well Evaluations: Priority must be given to completing and submitting the review of existing Class II wells which may be injecting into non-exempt aquifers, particularly in non-hydrocarbon producing zones, as this is the critical path for evaluating the highest potential impacts to drinking water sources. The drinking water source evaluation for these wells should then proceed expeditiously, followed by appropriate actions to address any threats to drinking water (e.g., emergency orders to cease injection, permit rescission, information orders or exercise of other authorities).
Where injection for enhanced oil recovery or waste disposal is contemplated to continue via existing wells into aquifers without approved exemptions, or into portions of aquifers that are outside the specific areas exempted, the State needs to establish a process, priorities, and a schedule to evaluate and address any potential threats from these operations, and for timely development of aquifer exemption proposals. The schedule should reflect environmental and public health priorities and provide adequate time for public participation and for EPA to finalize any needed decisions on these aquifers over the course of the next two years, and no later February 15, 2017. The State must take actions to prohibit injections after February 15, 2017 in any aquifers for which EPA has not approved an aquifer exemption.
Further, State approval of any new wells in aquifers without approved exemptions or into portions of aquifers that are outside the specific area exempted should be limited to State-approved projects in hydrocarbon producing zones, and should include considerations such as: information from drinking water well surveys and recent water quality data in the vicinity of the injection wells; use of formations with greater than 3000 ppm TDS (as we understand the State is analyzing the conditions, if any, under which continued injection into hydrocarbon producing zones with water quality of less than 3000 ppm TDS should be permitted); use of compliance orders or exercise of comparable State authorities to compel operators’ submittal of complete applications for aquifer exemptions, and to prohibit injections after February 15, 2017 in any aquifers for which EPA has not approved an aquifer exemption; availability of alternate disposal options; public review processes undertaken; and concurrence by DOC/DOGGR and State/Regional Boards. It is important to note that the State’s granting of an authorization for an injection well prior to obtaining EPA’s approval of an aquifer exemption does not guarantee EPA’s approval, which will be based on regulatory criteria.
Aquifer Exemption Process: Aquifer exemptions are an essential component of the State’s Class II well permitting program. The State must determine which aquifers to exempt, provide for public participation and submit proposed exemptions to EPA for approval. The State must support the proposed exemptions with strong technical data and robust evaluations before presenting them to the public and EPA. Given the multiple state agencies involved, explicit internal processes and procedures are needed to guide the gathering and thorough evaluation of the necessary data, and seek EPA approval regarding the specific aquifer exemptions. EPA’s Aquifer Exemption Checklist, provided previously and again as an enclosure with this letter, outlines the requirements for aquifer exemptions. We also provided several examples and met with State staff on November 3, 2014 to discuss required documentation.
Historic Aquifer Exemptions: In addition to wells known to the State to be injecting into zones that do not have aquifer exemptions, some existing wells inject into 11 aquifers which have been historically treated as exempt, though data provided by the State to EPA with its 1981 primacy application indicate that these 11 aquifers were non-hydrocarbon producing and contained water that was less than 3000 ppm TDS. Pursuant to Section 11(H) of the Underground Injection Control Program Memorandum of Agreement Between California Division of Oil and Gas and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA believes the collection and consideration of current data on the water quality of these aquifers will afford the State the opportunity to determine whether existing wells in these aquifers should continue to operate. The State’s program revision plan should outline performance of specific activities by the State and operators on a schedule that will allow EPA to finalize any needed decisions on these aquifers by December 31, 2016. No new wells should be authorized in an aquifer prior to the conclusion of this process for that aquifer.
EPA is committed to working with the State under 40 CFR 145.33 to enable the State to maintain primacy for the Class II Oil and Gas Underground Injection Control program. Given the need to resolve the program’s serious deficiencies in a timely matter, EPA has strengthened oversight and support of the program. As part of this investment, EPA is prepared to re-direct a portion of the State’s anticipated FY15 federal UIC grant allocation of approximately $550,000 to specific efforts targeted to advance the State’s Class II program toward compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. We will consult with you on work to be led by EPA with these funds.
We look forward to continuing our collective efforts towards achieving our shared commitment to protect California’s underground sources of drinking water, and anticipate receiving your program revision plan by February 6, 2015.
Director, Water Division
3) This is the list of wells and the test results obtained from DOGGR by the Center for Biological Diversity. NOTE: this is ONLY the Ventura County wells as of Feb 12. The list updates as more data is reviewed.
Today VCInFocus will covering a rally where residents and groups will be asking for a ban on fracking in Ventura County. The rally will be held immediately before a public input hearing conducted by the California Department of Conservation. The hearing is a chance for the public to provide feedback on the Draft ENvironmental Impact Report issued by the State as mandated by SB4.
Rally: Starts at 4:00 pm in front of the Ventura College Performing Arts Center
Performing Arts Center
4700 Loma Vista Road
Ventura, CA 93003
Public hearing is from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Ventura College Performing Arts Center.
Press release dated Feb. 9, 2015. from Cal. Dept. of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. There are around 585 injection wells in Ventura County.
STATE PROVIDES UNDERGROUND INJECTION CONTROL PLAN
TO U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
SACRAMENTO – California regulatory authorities on Friday, February 6, submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a plan to correct deficiencies in the regulation of underground injection. The 12-page letter (attached), prepared by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the State Water Resources Control Board, focuses on the enhanced protection of California aquifers from contamination due to oil and gas production.
“Our primary goal has always been to ensure the protection of public health and safety and the environment, and we believe that overall, we have been successful,” State Oil and Gas Supervisor Dr. Steven Bohlen said. “But in this time of unprecedented drought, there must be a higher level of scrutiny on any activity that could adversely impact the state’s water resources.”
The work plan pledges to U.S. EPA that DOC’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (Division) – which is charged with oversight of the state’s oil and gas production -- and State Water Resources Control Board will jointly ensure California achieves full compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. It concedes that the Division must make “long overdue revisions” to its underground injection program and must address shortcomings to its data management system, as laid out in the letter.
The Division was granted “primacy” in 1983 by the U.S. EPA to regulate Class II underground injection wells, which are used to increase oil recovery and to safely dispose of fluid produced with oil and natural gas. In 2010, U.S. EPA audited the State’s regulatory program, reporting several areas of concern. Since, the Division has made a number of improvements, including adding staff, providing additional training, and establishing a monitoring and compliance unit to conduct an internal assessment of the underground injection program.
In the summer of 2014, the Division became aware that some underground injection wells had been permitted into aquifers that may not have been declared “exempt” from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act provisions governing groundwater aquifers. For the most part, the groundwater in properly “exempted” aquifers is comingled with oil and natural gas or other naturally-occurring chemicals, and thus cannot be used for drinking water or agriculture.
That prompted the Division, in cooperation with U.S. EPA and the State Water Resources Control Board, to undertake a comprehensive review of underground injection in California. Last July, 11 injection wells that posed a threat to drinking water supplies were ordered to immediately halt injection, and any additional such wells likewise will be shut down. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board staff have tested nine water supply wells near those injection wells and found no evidence of contamination related to underground injection. The State Water Board continues to evaluate injection wells to determine if nearby water supply wells or ground water resources are at risk.
The work plan noted: “A process has been developed to determine the wells with the highest risks associated with injection, and the steps to be taken to bring injection well permits into compliance with the primacy agreement with US EPA. “
California is the third largest oil-producing state in the nation, producing about 575,000 barrels per day. Injection wells have been an integral part of California’s oil and gas operations for more than 50 years. Currently, more than 50,000 oilfield injection wells are operating in the state. About 75 percent of California’s oil production is the result of enhanced oil recovery methods such as steam flood, cyclic steam, water flood, and natural gas injection.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. --
Regulators in California, the country's third-largest oil-producing state, have authorized oil companies to inject production fluids and waste into what are now federally protected aquifers more than 2,500 times, risking contamination of underground water supplies that could be used for drinking water or irrigation, state records show.
While the permits go back decades, an Associated Press analysis found that nearly half of those injection wells - 46 percent - were approved or began injections in the last four years under Gov. Jerry Brown, who has pushed state oil and gas regulators to speed up the permitting process. That happened despite growing warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2011 that state regulators were out of compliance with federal laws meant to protect underground drinking-water stores from oilfield contamination.
In California, "we need a big course correction. We need to get the system back in compliance," said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the EPA. "Californians expect their water is not being polluted by oil producers ... This poses that very real danger."....
Read full story here at ABC7: http://abc7.com/news/ca-regulators-allowed-oilfield-dumping-in-drinking-water/507542/
Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG) has determined that 23 wells in VC are under investigation - the brief below was posted online by CFROG 2/7/15-www.cfrog.org
The scandal over oilfield waste injection wells moves into Ventura County. State regulators are investigating more than 500 injection wells for potentially dumping oil industry wastewater into aquifers protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as well as state law. As you can see with this link to an interactive map, the waste injection wells in this country under investigation are on the Rincon, east of Oxnard in the fertile plain,Upper Ojai, the Sespe Oil Field north of Fillmore, Bardsdale south of Fillmore, the Piru oil field and south of Piru.