Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, injects high
pressure volumes of water, sand and chemicals into existing wells
to unlock natural gas and oil. The technique essentially
fractures the rock to get to the otherwise unreachable deposits.
A prominent oil and gas lobbying group seeks to strip
environmental protections from groundwater sources designated
by the state for agricultural use and which may grow
increasingly important to California’s water-scarce future,
according to a memo obtained through a records request. The
proposal, which hasn’t been publicly announced, suggests
removing protections for groundwater reserves underneath 1,500
square surface miles in western Kern County, where the
upper groundwater zone alone can extend down thousands of feet.
California denied 21 oil drilling permits this week in the
latest move toward ending fracking in a state that makes
millions from the petroleum industry but is seeing widespread
drought and more dangerous fire seasons linked to climate
change. … Fracking involves injecting high-pressure
water deep underground to extract oil or gas from rock. Critics
say it can pollute groundwater and contributes to climate
When California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to ban
hydraulic fracturing, a highly controversial method of oil and
gas production more widely known as fracking, he focused
primarily on climate change impacts. He may have a water
conservation argument to make as well. … The practice of
fracking entails injecting large amounts of water, sand and
chemicals deep underground at high pressures in an attempt to
crack open rock layers and release oil or gas trapped
As California suffers from a major drought and enters a climate
change fueled wildfire season, oil and gas operators continue
to use hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater for
drilling operations annually. It’s a vicious symbiotic cycle:
fracking and drilling contribute to climate change and suck up
finite water resources, then drought and wildfires worsen from
The story of Lithium Valley begins in earnest on Sept. 29,
2020. That’s the day when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law
Assembly Bill 1657, sponsored by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia,
creating a “Blue Ribbon Commission on Lithium Extraction in
California.” That commission is now called the Lithium Valley
Commission. What is this all about? Oh, just the fact that up
to 40% of the world’s potential future lithium supply is
located under and near the Salton Sea.
A large oilfield wastewater disposal pond near Buttonwillow
will likely close this summer, and its operator and last
remaining customer will together pay $645,000 in penalties and
fees, under a recent court settlement that further restricts a
decades-old practice that has become a focus of regional water
quality regulators. The accord concludes a 2019 lawsuit that
accused facility owner Valley Water Management Co. and
Colorado-based oil producer Sentinel Peak Resources of dumping
fluid containing harmful chemicals above a reservoir that
provides local drinking and irrigation water.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on May 14 unveiled
his May budget revision that allocates $200
million to plug abandoned and orphaned oil and gas wells, many
located near low-income residential areas where the majority of
residents are Latino and Black. In January
2020, a report by the California Council on
Science & Technology revealed that California taxpayers could
be on the hook for more than $500 million to plug thousands of
“orphan” wells drilled and abandoned by oil and gas companies.
.. Plugging all 107,000 oil and wells in California when
they become idle would cost more than $9 billion, the
report also found.
A little more than a week ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that
not only would California effectively ban hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking, by 2024, but the state also would work to phase
out oil extraction entirely by 2045. … It was — like the
governor’s promise last year that the state would ban the sale
of new gas-powered cars by 2035 — a sweeping pronouncement
meant to show urgency in addressing climate change while the
state he leads struggles with many of its most dire effects.
But meeting those goals requires complex regulatory
British journalist James Bartholomew is widely credited with
creating the phrase “virtue signaling” to describe positioning
oneself on the popular side of an issue without actually doing
anything about it. Politicians are particularly prone to
uttering words or making token efforts on difficult issues to
stave off criticism about their failure to act meaningfully.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is California’s champion virtue-signaler as
he faces a recall election later this year. … There’s no
better example than Newsom’s ever-shifting attitude toward
hydraulic fracturing to increase petroleum production. -Written by Dan Walters
Hydraulic fracturing has occurred in California and nationwide
for decades; however, recent advancements in horizontal
drilling technologies and “well stimulation” techniques have
been instrumental in triggering an oil and gas boom, making the
U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and gas
reserves. California produces more oil than all but three
other states (Texas, North Dakota and Alaska), and Kern County
is responsible for more than 70 percent of the state’s oil
production. Environmentalists and other members of the
public became concerned that the hydraulic fracturing process
may contaminate groundwater aquifers …
On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) unveiled a new
initiative to ban new and future permits for hydraulic fracking
beginning in 2024. The ban is part of California’s effort to
move away from oil extraction to source fuel, focusing on
developing renewable sources such as wind and solar. Fracking,
or hydraulic fracturing, is the sourcing of oil from deep
subterranean rocks, using a high-pressured water mixture
drilled into the earth that releases natural gas and oil.
Gov. Gavin Newsom directed the state Friday to stop issuing
permits for the oil extraction method known as fracking by
January 2024 and to draw up plans to end all fossil-fuel
drilling in California by 2045 — the most sweeping declaration
of its kind in the nation. … Eliminating all extraction would
have far-reaching consequences in California, the nation’s
seventh-largest producer of crude oil… [Fracking
has] long been a controversial method because of what
climate activists see as unacceptable dangers, including the
possibility that it can contaminate groundwater.
A new proposal to drill for natural gas in the East Bay has
environmentalists up in arms, and not just because it’s a
polluting fossil fuel. It’s the location that has people really
upset. That’s because it’s in the Suisun Marsh, the largest
marshland on the West Coast, a highly protected natural habitat
for migratory birds, fish and wildlife. … A dozen
environmental and community groups have submitted a letter
opposing a plan by Brentwood-based Sunset Explorations to build
an acre pad on private property in the marsh and drill an
exploratory gas well there.
As the latest evidence of extended drought and extreme wildfire
danger confirms, California’s climate is changing quickly. Its
policy on burning planet-warming fuels — not so much. A
state Senate bill to ban hydraulic fracturing and otherwise
restrict oil and gas extraction died in its first committee
Tuesday, with Gov. Gavin Newsom and three Democratic lawmakers
A far-reaching proposal to outlaw hydraulic fracturing and ban
oil and gas wells from operating near homes, schools and
healthcare facilities failed in the California Legislature on
Tuesday, a major setback for progressive leaders who hail the
state as the nation’s bellwether on environmental protection.
Gov. Gavin Newsom in September called on state lawmakers to ban
fracking and voiced his support for safety buffer zones around
Legislation that would gradually phase out fracking and other
extraction methods that account for most of California’s
petroleum production faces its first big test in Sacramento on
Tuesday. The nine-member Senate Natural Resources and Water
Committee is set to vote on a proposal, Senate Bill 467, that
would bar new permits for hydraulic fracturing, cyclic
steaming, steam flooding and water flooding. The legislation
would begin taking effect in 2023 and also prohibit renewing
existing permits for fracking and the other targeted methods,
which a committee bill analysis says accounts for an estimated
80% to 95% of the state’s oil production.
The Suisun Marsh — known as the largest swath of contiguous
wetlands on the West Coast and a haven for thousands of
migrating waterfowl — has become the Bay Area’s latest
battleground between fossil fuel producers and
environmentalists hellbent on fighting climate change. A
Brentwood company, Sunset Exploration Inc., announced in
January it wants to explore for natural gas by drilling a
section of the 116,000-acre marshland about 9 miles southwest
of Suisun City in an area known as Hunter’s Point, according to
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Despite its green reputation, California has a big fossil fuel
problem on its hands: neighborhood oil and gas drilling. In
California, there’s nothing preventing frackers or drillers
from setting up shop right next to your home, school, or
hospital — and indeed, this is the reality for 7.4 million
Californians currently living within 1 mile of oil and gas
drilling operations, who are disproportionately non-white and
low-income. Now, a new state bill called S.B. 467, slated
for a hearing in the California Senate Committee on Natural
Resources and Water on Tuesday, may reshape the lives of
frontline communities by eliminating fracking and instituting
mandatory buffer zones between oil and gas extraction and
places where Californians live, work, and study.
Throughout 2020 and early 2021, California issued more than 300
permits to oil and gas companies for new underground injection
wells — an intensive form of oil production and wastewater
disposal. But the actual number of new injection wells is
likely higher, owing to the state’s opaque approval process
that has drawn scrutiny from auditors and environmentalists.
Some of these undercounted wells may be polluting groundwater
used for public drinking and agricultural purposes, according
to regulatory filings reviewed by Capital & Main. The impact of
injection wells on groundwater in California is understudied,
When Gov. Gavin Newsom voiced his support last year for a ban
on hydraulic fracturing by oil and gas companies, an effort
long fought by the industry and trade unions alike, he gave
Democrats a green light to send him legislation to achieve that
goal as they saw fit. But the crackdown on oil and gas
production under consideration by the California Legislature is
much wider in scope than the plan requested by the governor,
who may get more than he bargained for as he shoulders the
pressures of carrying out the state’s COVID-19 pandemic
response while battling a looming recall election. The
ambitious proposal would outlaw hydraulic fracturing, or
fracking, and a series of other oil extraction methods reviled
by environmental activists.
A new lawsuit brought by environmental groups against the
Bureau of Land Management seeks to rescind leases for seven
parcels of federal land auctioned to energy companies in the
waning days of the Trump administration. They are the first
federal land oil and gas leases of their kind to be sold in
nearly a decade and would open vast tracts to oil exploration
and fracking. The land in question sits in California’s Central
Valley, an agricultural region that already experiences some of
the worst air and water quality in the country.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management decided to sell oil and gas
leases on public land in California for the first time in
nearly a decade without taking a hard look at the environmental
and public health impacts, according to a lawsuit filed Monday
in a federal court in the state. The agency’s “hasty”
environmental review ignored comments from experts and failed
to consider evidence showing fracking could pollute already
scarce groundwater resources, environmental groups say in the
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
filing. The decision violated the National Environmental Policy
Tucked out of sight, oil wells run thousands of feet deep,
tapping thick crude from one of California’s many urban oil
fields. And in the fall of 2019, investigators with the state’s
oil agency flagged trouble. Nasco Petroleum was injecting
huge amounts of water into well bores above the legal pressure
limits, aiming to push more crude out of the aging downtown
field. … The wells, investigators wrote in a report to a
manager, posed “immediate” risks to drinking water aquifers.
Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico made history on Monday
when the Senate confirmed her as President Biden’s secretary of
the Interior, making her the first Native American to lead a
cabinet agency. … Beyond the Interior Department’s
responsibility for the well-being of the nation’s 1.9 million
Native people, it oversees about 500 million acres of public
land, federal waters off the United States coastline, a huge
system of dams and reservoirs across the Western United States
and the protection of thousands of endangered species.
It was a chilly morning in 2010 when Oxnard farmworkers,
tending to their broccoli crops, discovered an oily sheen
floating on their irrigation water. In a nearby oilfield, a
tank of diluent — a carcinogenic mix of benzene, toluene, and
diesel — had sprung a leak. … A decade later, we
still face the same dangers. Right in the heart of our prime
farmland, which infuses Ventura County with over two billion
dollars annually. We’re risking that vital economy for the
dregs: Tar Sands becomes bunker fuel and asphalt — not
gasoline. And annually, Tar Sands extraction in Oxnard could
use up approximately 12 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of
drinkable water — just to make steam. -Written by Liz Beall, executive director of Climate First:
Replacing Oil and Gas.
Environmental and community groups have sued a California
county after the prime oil-drilling region approved a plan to
fast-track thousands of new wells in a state that’s positioned
itself as a leader in combating climate change. The Kern County
Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a revised ordinance
that could lead to approval of more than 40,000 new oil and gas
wells over roughly 15 years. … The oil and gas industry
faces challenges from California lawmakers and environmental
groups for creating air and water pollution and contributing to
When an oil or gas well reaches the end of its lifespan, it
must be plugged. If it isn’t, the well might leak toxic
chemicals into groundwater and spew methane, carbon dioxide and
other pollutants into the atmosphere for years on end.
… There are nearly 60,000 unplugged wells in Colorado in
need of this treatment — each costing $140,000 on average,
according to the Carbon Tracker, a climate think tank, in a new
report that analyzes oil and gas permitting data. Plugging this
many wells will cost a lot —more than $8 billion, the report
A plan to fast-track drilling of thousands of new oil and gas
wells over the next 15 years in California’s prime oil patch
was approved Monday by Kern County officials over objections by
environmental groups….The ordinance came up for discussion as
the industry faces challenges from lawmakers as well as
ever-present opposition from environmental groups for creating
air and water pollution and significant contributions to
After a state appeals court blocked Kern County’s effort to
speed up new oil and gas drilling, officials overseeing the
state’s prime oil patch have revised an ordinance that could
permit tens of thousands of new wells over the next 15 years.
The Kern County Board of Supervisors is poised to vote Monday
on the plan that would streamline the permitting process by
creating a blanket environmental impact report for drilling as
many as 2,700 wells a year. … The county hasn’t
been able to issue permits in a year and the industry is facing
challenges from lawmakers as well as environmental groups for
creating air and water pollution and for significant
contributions to climate change.
An expert panel has concluded that the decades-old practice of
irrigating agricultural food crops with “produced water” from
oil fields shows no evidence of increased risk to human
health. The panel’s 35-page Food Safety Project White
Paper is the result of five years of extensive crop sampling
and a thorough evaluation of data, along with a review of
existing literature…. The Central Valley Regional Water
Quality Control Board is inviting members of the pubic to
comment on the white paper at its next meeting on Feb. 18-19,
along with an option to submit written comments until March 5.
New legislation would ban all fracking in California by 2027,
taking aim at the powerful oil and gas industry in a state
already planning to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars
by 2035. … Environmental groups say [fracking] can cause
significant harm to air quality and water supplies.
A pipeline rupture that gushed hundreds of gallons of oil into
the San Francisco Bay spurred a class action filed Tuesday that
accuses a Chevron refinery of prioritizing profits over safety
and threatening the survival of herring in the area for years
to come. … On Feb. 9, a Chevron refinery in the East Bay
city of Richmond, California, discovered a pipeline leak that
oozed about 700 gallons of a substance described
interchangeably by Chevron as “a mixture of recovered oil and
gasoline”, “petroleum and water mixture” and “hydrocarbons.”
Emergency crews in Richmond, California, are rushing to clean
up an estimated 600 gallons of oil that spilled from a Chevron
refinery into the San Francisco Bay. Details on the spill are
still scant, but the emergency has reinvigorated calls from
residents and environmentalists for the city to change its
relationship with the refinery.
The Chevron refinery in Richmond is investigating an oil spill
Tuesday afternoon, according to city and county officials. The
spill happened in what’s called the “Long Wharf” off Point
Richmond, where a sheen can be seen on the top of the water at
Oil and gas remain an important topic in Kern county and come
Thursday, county officials are expected to discuss revisions to
a zoning ordinance focused on oil and gas local permitting.
This is an ordinance that’s years in the making and its faced
challenges along the way. The initial review was approved by
the board of supervisors back in 2015, but last year after a
court ruling it was challenged, so now the county’s planning
commission is revisiting this topic once more.
… However, advocates against the proposed ordinance say
they are concerned with environmental impacts of the air,
water, and noise concerns that may follow if the ordinance is
A new study shows petroleum-related and other gases
present in groundwater overlying an oil field on the
Oxnard Plain, as well as unanswered questions about gases
in five water wells, but no widespread
contamination of the water supply. State and county
officials said they are reviewing the 66-page report by
scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey before determining
what, if any, future actions should be taken. The study
confirmed what scientists suspected two years ago after
finding petroleum-related gases in water wells but adds
More than 30 states actively regulate oil and gas development
with a variety of practices and rules designed to reduce
health, safety and environmental impacts. …
Colorado approved new, nation-leading well integrity rules
designed to prevent oil and gas wells from leaking methane to
the atmosphere, befouling groundwater resources and causing
explosions that can harm workers and communities.
California oil regulators ignored their own regulations and
issued improper permits for hundreds of new wells last year,
according to an audit … finalized this week. … The audit
was requested after stories in The Desert Sun
revealed that CalGEM employees used so-called “dummy”
folders to approve new injection wells for
several oil companies that do risky steam injection.
For decades it’s been done on a relatively small scale near
Bakersfield, and recent studies confirm it doesn’t threaten
crop safety. So why aren’t more local oil producers giving
farmers the briny water that comes up from the ground along
with oil? In a word, money.
California lawmakers need to create a package of legislation
that limits multiple kinds of oil drilling, not just hydraulic
fracturing, if they want to respond effectively to the world’s
climate crisis, says state Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, who
chairs the Natural Resources and Water Committee.
A national environmental organization is preparing to sue Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s administration for issuing new fracking permits,
including six approved on Friday, Kassie Siegel, director of
the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute,
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vowed to work with
the state legislature to phase out new permits for hydraulic
fracking by 2024, but left untouched a more widely used oil
extraction technique in the state that has been linked to
hundreds of oil spills.
Along with being a global leader on addressing climate change,
California is the seventh-largest producer of oil in the
nation. And across some of its largest oil fields, companies
have for decades turned spills into profits, garnering millions
of dollars from surface expressions that can foul sensitive
habitats and endanger workers, an investigation by The Desert
Sun and ProPublica has found….Under state laws, it’s illegal
to discharge any hazardous substance into a creek or streambed,
dry or not.
For decades, farmers in California’s Kern County have turned to
wastewater from oil production to help irrigate their crops
during extended dry spells. … But the use of the recycled
water, a byproduct of oil and natural gas extraction that is
mixed with surface water for irrigation, has stirred
The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity last week
said it’s targeting a federal plan to auction in December seven
parcels totaling about 4,330 acres in or near existing
oilfields in the county. The CBD called the auction plan a
“breathtakingly vicious” move by the Trump administration to
expand drilling and fracking at a time of wildfires driven by
climate change in an area with some of the country’s worst air
A Monday proposal from the U.S. Forest Service would severely
limit the agency’s ability to call off any oil drilling slated
for its lands by the Bureau of Land Management, which tees up
leasing in federal forests. … The proposed rule removes
specific references within Forest Service policy to review
environmental consequences of drilling and also eliminates the
requirement to provide public notice before new oil activity
In September 2018, Estela Escoto sat down with a team of
lawyers and community organizers and weighed her options.
Escoto’s town—Arvin, California—had just granted an oil
drilling and well-servicing company, Petro-Lud, a permit to
drill four new wells near a neighborhood densely packed with
young families and a park where children played soccer.
The owner of more than 2,000 idle oil wells in Southern
California declared bankruptcy this week, raising fears among
environmentalists that those wells might never be properly
sealed. … As those old wells sit idle and unsealed, they
present a potential pollution hazard to drinking water
underground and people living nearby.
Bay Area scientists have signed off on a series of fracking
permits in western Kern County, allowing the well-completion
technique to proceed after Gov. Gavin Newsom put in place new,
time-consuming review procedures prompted by environmental
concerns and regulatory conflict-of-interest accusations.
On June 1, in the midst of the turmoil created by the
coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd in
Minneapolis, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration
quietly issued 12 fracking permits to Aera Energy, a joint
venture owned by ExxonMobil and Shell. … The fracking permits
are the latest example of California’s oil industry benefiting
from regulatory or deregulatory action during the COVID-19
Fossil fuel companies going bankrupt in the wake of the
Covid-19 pandemic are expected to leave behind thousands of
abandoned oil and gas wells, and some congressional Democrats
are calling for a federal program to ensure they’re cleaned up.
There are 56,000 known abandoned oil and gas wells in the U.S.,
leaking methane and other air and water pollutants, said Rep.
Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) …
A study conducted by researchers at Duke University and RTI
International found that reusing oil field produced water that
has been mixed with surface water to irrigate crops in Kern
County’s Cawelo Water District does not pose any major health
The recycled oilfield water, blended with regular irrigation
water, was tested for more than 140 chemical compounds. And 13
different crops — some grown with the oilfield water, some not
—showed no uptake of potentially hazardous chemicals from oil
California’s top environmental agency said it would “fill any
enforcement gaps” left by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s decision last month to relax oversight in the wake of
the coronavirus pandemic.
State oil and gas regulators have granted permits for hydraulic
fracturing, the controversial drilling technique known as
fracking, for the first time since last summer. The California
Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, last week
issued permits to Aera Energy, a joint venture of Shell and
ExxonMobil, for “well stimulation” work in two Kern County oil
California regulators on Friday issued fracking permits for the
first time in nine months, saying federal scientists had given
clearance for 24 permits to Aera Energy for oil well
stimulation in Kern County. … Last July, Gov. Gavin
Newsom fired the state’s oil and gas supervisor a day
after The Desert Sun reported that the number of fracking
permits issued during his first six months in office had
doubled compared to the same period under his
People flanked by handmade signs spill out of a charter bus
that just arrived from UC Santa Barbara. They join a growing
rally outside the Veterans Memorial Center in Santa Maria,
chanting, “Health, not oil,” and, “No new oil, keep it in the
soil!” A microphone passed around gave different folks and
organizations a chance to lead the rally cries.
A settlement was reached Wednesday in a federal lawsuit filed
by an environmental group accusing Pacific Coast Energy Co. of
illegally discharging polluted water from an Orcutt oil
facility into northern Santa Barbara County waterways and
threatening endangered species.
Some environmental groups eye the effort suspiciously, fearing
the Trump administration will use the project to allow
businesses to offload hazardous wastewater in ways that
threaten drinking water sources and otherwise risk public
health. Businesses including oil and gas developers have urged
the Trump administration to allow them more ways to get rid of
their increasing volumes of wastewater.
A California appellate court on Tuesday threw out a Kern County
law that allowed major oil producers to rely on a single,
blanket environmental approval for 72,000 new oil wells,
instead of facing scrutiny of each new project’s potential
impact on air quality, drinking water, wildlife and other
Regulating the day-to-day details of an oil and gas operation
can be a complex task, with both regulators and operators
working hard to prevent leaks, explosions and other threats to
worker safety, community health and the environment. … That’s
why we track what states are up to on a consistent basis.
Across much of California, fossil fuel companies are leaving
thousands of oil and gas wells unplugged and idle, potentially
threatening the health of people living nearby and handing
taxpayers a multibillion-dollar bill for the environmental
The Bureau of Land Management may stop studying how its
long-term blueprints for millions of acres of public lands
would affect the environment, according to a document shared
with Bloomberg Environment. … The BLM may propose a land use
planning rule that will “remove NEPA requirements from the
planning regulations,” referring to the National Environmental
A bill introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) helped craft would ban
fracking nationwide by 2025, according to its newly unveiled
text. The legislation would immediately prevent federal
agencies from issuing federal permits for expanded fracking,
new fracking, new pipelines, new natural gas or oil export
terminals and other gas and oil infrastructure.
The White House issued a notice [Thursday] seeking input on
efforts to “reform enforcement” — a potential boon for the
energy industry. … [Thursday's] memo, which appears in the
Federal Register, states that federal enforcement has ballooned
in recent decades but protections for defendants has not.
A senior Chevron official told California lawmakers on Monday a
2019 incident that spilled over a million gallons of water and
oil into a creek bed was likely caused by its attempts to patch
up a shuttered well.
California increased its efforts Friday to keep the federal
government from allowing oil and gas drilling on more than 1
million acres of public land, suing to block the Trump
administration from issuing new permits in the central part of
A move by the Trump administration to roll back landmark
environmental policy intended to ensure vigorous scrutiny of
federal infrastructure projects has struck alarm in the hearts
of California conservationists, particularly those striving to
safeguard North Coast waters from offshore energy exploration
Environmental groups say they plan to fight a Trump
administration decision that cleared the way for new oil and
gas leases on more than 1 million acres in California. … The
final supplemental environmental report released recently said
the BLM found no adverse impacts of hydraulic fracturing that
could not be alleviated. Several groups and state officials,
however, disagree and have called the
The Trump administration on Thursday gave the go-ahead to new
oil-drilling leases on federal land in California, mostly
around petroleum-rich Bakersfield but also in less-obvious
spots in the Sierra foothills, such as near Yosemite National
The state is moving to ramp down oil production while
Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a
closer look at the environmental and health threats —
especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy
extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that
existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive
landscapes as well as public health.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency wrongly
allowed oil waste to be dumped into a San Luis Obispo aquifer
and ignored impacts to the California red-legged frog and other
As Donald Trump’s administration pushes to expand oil
extraction in California, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom,
has signed bill after bill limiting the practice. … But since
taking office in January, Newsom’s own department of energy
management has approved 33 percent more new oil and gas
drilling permits than were approved under Newsom’s predecessor
Jerry Brown over the same period in 2018
Since July, at least a half dozen surface expressions have been
reported into the state spill report database, including one in
early November, totaling more than 2.7 million gallons of oil,
water and mud. … Under strengthened state regulations, these
surface expressions became illegal only in April of this year.
But that doesn’t mean the public knows about all of them or how
close they occur to communities…
California took a historic step forward this summer with the
passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This
fund seeks to provide new targeted investments to end the
state’s drinking water crisis, where one million Californians
are impacted by unsafe water each year. Unfortunately,
successful implementation of the fund is on a potential
collision course with another California law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act…
A supplemental environmental impact report on hydraulic
fracturing released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management found no significant impacts, and plans for leasing
1.2 million acres for oil and gas development in eight
counties, including Santa Barbara County, will not change.
As the state focuses on providing clean and affordable drinking
water for millions of residents, those on private wells
typically face an uphill battle. Private well owners confront
significant financial challenges digging new wells, and
connecting to a public water system involves a daunting local
and state bureaucratic process…
The Trump administration unveiled a plan to open another
million acres in California to oil and gas development and
fracking, one day after being sued by conservationists for
similar plans in a different part of the state. The Bureau of
Land Management released its environmental analysis Thursday
concluding that hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas extraction
in counties located in the south state do not conflict with the
land management goals of the agency.
Prosecutions of environmental crimes dropped to historic lows
under the Trump administration last fiscal year and one legal
expert believes that could endanger public health. “There’s a
risk that unenforced violations could lead to fires, leaks,
spills, and contamination,” said Ethan Elkind, climate program
director at the University of California, Berkeley School of
The Santa Barbara County board of supervisors is taking a stand
against the Trump administration. The resolution was sponsored
by First District County Supervisor Gregg Hart in response to
the Trump Administration’s plan to open more than one million
acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of
central California to new oil drilling and fracking.
Thousands of gallons of crude petroleum began spouting out of
the ground near a part of Chevron’s steam injection well
network in a Kern County oil field over the weekend … in the
same area where a larger uncontrolled release of 234,000
gallons of oil has taken place since August.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a law intended to counter
Trump administration plans to increase oil and gas production
on protected public land. The measure bars any California
leasing authority from allowing pipelines or other oil and gas
infrastructure to be built on state property. It makes it
difficult for drilling to occur because federally protected
areas are adjacent to state-owned land.
The majority of California’s elected leaders oppose Trump’s
plans. A majority of Californians also believes the state
should ban the dangerous practice called “fracking,” which
injects poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals deep into the
The Trump administration’s latest effort to dramatically boost
oil and gas production is landing in California, with the
Interior Department on Friday opening up 720,000 acres between
the Bay Area and Fresno to potential drilling.
Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have
allowed California to preserve Obama-era endangered species
protections and water-pumping restrictions for the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should they be dismantled by the
Trump administration, a move scorned by environmental groups
that have been among the governor’s most important political
A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey concludes oilfield
activity has lowered the quality of groundwater in western Kern
County, making it saltier and possibly affecting nearby
irrigation sources but not harming drinking water.
The administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a de-facto
moratorium on hydraulic fracturing while it studies permitting
procedures for the politically controversial oil
well-completion technique better known as fracking.
Despite new California regulations banning surface spills in
the state’s vast oil fields, at least eight spills connected to
Chevron have occurred in just one Kern County oil field since
the new rules took effect in April, state regulators say.
The ”surface expression” spills have spewed more than
1.26 million gallons of oil and wastewater in five
months, with some still not contained.
Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill to reform state energy
extraction regulation has been approved by the Legislature. The
legislation … would require state oil and gas extraction
regulators to put public health and the environment ahead of
increased industry development.
A jury has ordered Shell Oil Company to pay the City of Atwater
a total of $63 million in damages in a groundwater pollution
suit. The decision, reached Friday after a four-month trial in
Merced County Superior Court, awarded Atwater $53 million in
compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages,
according to a news release from the city.
Environmental groups are calling for increased scrutiny of
California’s oil and gas industry after learning that more than
50 million gallons of crude oil flowed out of the ground in an
uncontrolled release near a Chevron facility in Kern County
over the last 16 years.
State oil and gas regulators say they’re launching an
investigation of operations in a Kern County oil field after a
series of large, uncontrolled crude petroleum releases near
Chevron wells — including one that has continued on and off for
more than 16 years and may have spewed out more than 50 million
gallons of crude oil.
While the massive release of crude petroleum from a Chevron oil
well near the town of McKittrick seems to have ended, the
timeline for hauling away soil contaminated by the spill is
unclear. “The full extent of the required site remediation is
not known at this time and will be fully scoped with
appropriate regulatory agencies,” said Eric Laughlin, a
spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife…
California has long been a top producer of oil. But that may
change. Some hope that change will accelerate under Gov. Gavin
Newsom, who has called for a decrease in the demand and supply
of fossil fuels. A recent massive spill in Chevron’s Cymric
oilfield in Kern County, about 35 miles west of Bakersfield,
prompted a major regulatory shakeup and could bolster that
California regulators are negotiating an agreement with two
major oil companies that would allow them to keep injecting
millions of gallons of wastewater into potential drinking water
and irrigation supplies in the Central Valley for three years.
On Tuesday, groups submitted a letter to California’s key
resource agencies responsible for preserving and managing the
state’s natural resources, urging the agencies to protect
drinking water and safeguard public health from the pending
request for exemption from federal safe drinking water rules in
the Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Barbara County.
Conventional oil and gas production methods can affect
groundwater much more than fracking, according to
hydrogeologists Jennifer McIntosh from the University of
Arizona and Grant Ferguson from the University of Saskatchewan.
According to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Industry Association,
outdoor recreation generated $92 billion in consumer spending
in California and is directly responsible for 691,000 jobs in
the state. That’s why local residents and elected leaders have
sought additional safeguards to make sure that some of the more
extraordinary lands and rivers within the national forest and
monument receive permanent protection as wilderness and wild
and scenic rivers.
Under U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act and California
regulations, when oil companies want to use “cyclic steam”
blasting or steam flooding, they’re required to submit an
“underground injection control,” or UIC, application to state
regulators. But state employees said at least 12 ”dummy”
project folders appear to have been used over the past
several years to wrongly issue permits, including by
The Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision earlier
this year to exempt portions of the Arroyo Grande Oil Field
from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
I’m here with Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president
emeritus of the Pacific Institute. Peter serves on the Circle
of Blue Board of Trustees from his base in California, where
Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a bill directing some $130
million to improve access to clean drinking water for many
A team of scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Colorado
School of Mines (Mines) is developing a microbe-based system
that could remove toxic compounds from oilfield produced water
so it can be reused in other water-intensive sectors such as
agriculture and energy production.
When the news broke, in the second week of July, that nearly
800,000 gallons of oil and water had spilled into a dry
creekbed from an oil production facility in Kern County, it
sounded rare and dramatic. But the spill was unique only in its
magnitude. In the oil fields of the San Joaquin Valley, spills
and seeps of oil, wastewater and oil-laced wastewater are as
common as the wind storms that episodically blanket the Valley
In areas where groundwater levels have fallen because of heavy
pumping, people have often responded by drilling deeper wells.
But exactly how much that has been occurring on a nationwide
scale wasn’t clear until water experts compiled nearly 12
million well-drilling records from state and local agencies
across the country.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in the Central Valley on Wednesday for a
firsthand look at one of the largest oil spills in California
history, vowed to go beyond the state’s already aggressive
efforts to curtail the use of fossil fuels and seek a long-term
strategy to reduce oil production.
Siding with environmental groups and outspoken Oxnard
residents, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday
voted not to approve a plan to add four new oil wells at an
existing drilling site. … It was a big win for
environmentalists and south Oxnard activists who are opposed to
drilling, pesticides and industrial uses near residents.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed into law the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund bill in the tiny Fresno County
community of Tombstone Territory — where residents rely on
bottled water because their private wells are contaminated.
Starting next year, Senate Bill 200 will provide $130 million
annually to clean up drinking water in California communities
like Tombstone that lack access to safe water.
Chevron records show the large, McKittrick-area oil leak …
probably originated with an idle well being worked on at the
same time the company was injecting high-pressure steam just
360 feet away, a combination that industry people say should
not have been performed simultaneously in such close proximity
and which possibly contributed to the release.
On the same day Sen. Dianne Feinstein chastised Chevron Corp.
for keeping an 800,000-gallon spill outside Bakersfield “under
wraps,” California officials confirmed Thursday that the site
was once again seeping a hazardous mix of oil and water.
Brokered in large part by rookie state senator for California’s
14 Senate District, Melissa Hurtado, the southern portion of
the Valley has gained tens of millions of dollars of investment
in drinking water, asthma mitigation, aging and disability
resource centers and Valley Fever research.
California’s top oil regulator, losing patience with Chevron’s
response to the uncontrolled release of thousands of barrels of
oil near McKittrick, has ordered the company to “take all
measures” to make sure petroleum, water and steam do not resume
rising to the surface after previous efforts to stop the flow
there proved temporary.
The seep, which has been flowing off and on since May, has
again stopped, said Chevron spokeswoman Veronica
Flores-Paniagua, with the last flow Tuesday. … Chevron
reported that 794,000 gallons of oil and water have leaked out
of the ground where it uses steam injection to extract oil in
the large Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles west of Bakersfield.
Two consumer groups are calling on California’s governor to
freeze all new oil drilling permits and to clean house at the
agency that issues them, after the organizations uncovered
records showing that top state regulators and engineers held
investments in Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other
Legislative leaders reached a compromise with Newsom to take
some money out of a fund used to improve air quality and use it
for drinking water. … The state Assembly approved the
proposal on Friday by a vote of 67-0. It now heads to the state
California’s political leaders have made the long-overdue
decision to clean up the Central Valley’s contaminated drinking
water, and help cash-strapped rural water districts. The catch:
rather than assess a fee on water users or tapping into the
state’s budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature
relied on cap-and-trade money to pay for a portion of the
Here in Oxnard, we are also at a crossroads regarding the
safety of our water. In February, scientists from the United
States Geological Survey found that groundwater near the Fox
Canyon aquifer system in eastern Oxnard was contaminated in an
area of steam injection oil production … The USGS found
thermogenic gases — byproducts of oil drilling — in groundwater
wells near oil operations.
Over 10 years, it would funnel $1.4 billion to the fund for
clean water solutions. The budget has been approved by the
California Legislature, but still needs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s
signature to pass. It also still needs trailer bills that
authorize some of the spending – including the drinking water
This segment contains two interviews: In the first, KVPR
reporter Kerry Klein sheds light on what this document says and
does, and shares how San Joaquin Valley residents have
responded. In the second, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback
explains some fracking basics, including what is and isn’t
known about the technique’s impact on the environment.
By the State Water Resources Control Board’s estimates, more
than a million Californians don’t have safe drinking water
flowing through the pipes into their homes. … As Gov. Gavin
Newsom prepares to send his revised $213 billion budget to the
legislature for approval, a trailer bill proposes that the
legislature appropriate $150 million a year to a Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
Sentinel Peak Resources has cleared an environmental hurdle
that could allow it to move forward with years-old plans to
increase drilling in the Arroyo Grande Oil Field — but whether
it will or not is still up in the air. The Environmental
Protection Agency granted Sentinel Peak Resources an aquifer
exemption on April 30, exempting portions of the aquifer under
the oil field from protections guaranteed by the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act.
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
A presentation by the U.S. Geological Survey to California
water boards has surfaced that reveals contamination in the
groundwater around the Orcutt oilfield, the Environmental
Defense Center in Santa Barbara claims. The advocacy group
released the information on Tuesday, stating that “federal
scientists found evidence of oil-field fluids in groundwater
underlying the nearby Orcutt oil field.”
Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East
Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of
legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for
communities in the valley. Specifically, Huerta urged the
legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It would be financed by the tax
payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on
every water bill in California.
It is hard to fathom how the fifth-largest economy in the world
can settle for letting public water systems serve up
contaminated water. How will our economy continue to grow and
how will we attract new businesses and new workers if the state
can’t provide a basic human need?
A public meeting erupted into an impassioned rally in San Luis
Obispo Wednesday night as activists and local residents took
turns bashing a federal plan to resume leasing public land in
Central California to new oil and gas drilling, including
The majority of the dozens of commenters at the meeting spoke
out against the analysis and the prospect of increased fracking
in the region, expressing concerns about air pollution,
drinking water quality, and climate change. … Tempers at the
meeting also flared for what many attendees viewed as a lack of
accountability from the BLM. The agency did not record the
meeting, instead inviting attendees to submit written comments
online, electronically, and only in English.
CSUN students and faculty have long contributed to California’s
efforts to ensure access to clean drinking water, efforts that
have intensified during the recent multi-year drought. A group
of students in CSUN’s Department of Geography and Environmental
Studies is helping in these efforts.
Kern’s oil industry took a pass Tuesday on a public hearing
focused on the environmental impacts of fracking, handing the
day to dozens of anti-oil activists who convened in downtown
Bakersfield to rail against the technique and the threat of
climate change. … The event was one of three hearings the BLM
is hosting as part of its plan to reopen federal land in
California to oil production.
The Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield office is set to hold
a meeting Tuesday over a White House proposal that would expand
oil drilling and fracking on more than a million acres of
public land across the state. … The proposal includes 40 new
wells over the next 10 years on roughly 400,000 acres of public
land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate — land
where the surface is owned privately, but the mineral rights
beneath the ground are managed by the federal government.
On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive
Order to promote increased oil and gas development… Then, in
April 2019, in response to the President’s order, the US Bureau
of Land Management (BLM) proposed opening up more than 1
million acres of public land in California’s Central Valley and
southern Central Coast to oil and gas production.
More than 725,000 acres of Central Coast land could be opened
up for oil and gas extraction under a new plan led by the Trump
administration. But due to local regulations — and economic
realities — Santa Cruz County land appears unlikely to be
affected even if the plan is approved.
A more than five-year moratorium on leasing land in California
for oil and gas development will be coming to an end with a May
9 Interior Department plan to open up about 725,000 acres
across the state’s Central Coast and the Bay Area for drilling.
The decision comes just two weeks after the Trump
administration released its plan to reopen more than 1 million
acres of public land and federal mineral estate in eight
counties in Central California to fracking.
Oil companies may have more space to build injection wells in
the Cat Canyon Oil Field if the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) approves a potential recommendation from various
state agencies. … If the EPA approves expanding the exempted
area, class 2 injection wells could be built over almost the
entire oil field boundary, according to maps prepared by DOGGR.
These wells are used to dispose of fluids associated with oil
and gas production.
Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) was always going to be tricky. Part of the necessary
growing pains of SGMA is determining how the revolutionary
statute interacts with traditional tenets of water law. As with
any other sweeping legislative change, SGMA does not provide
direct answers for every practical question which arises as the
law is put into place.
Newsom … said he would announce his administration’s detailed
strategy on energy policy in the next few weeks. The governor
was coy about core aspects of that policy, and declined to say
if it would ban the controversial practice of hydraulic
fracking, a process that uses drilling and large volumes of
high-pressure water to extract gas and oil deposits.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials will visit San
Luis Obispo later this month to take public comment on a
pending federal plan to grow oil and gas production on public
lands in Central California.
Have you visited Woodward Park recently? The 300-acre park in
Northeast Fresno … exist thanks to a little known, but
important federal program called the Land and Water
Conservation Fund. It was started 50 years ago with a simple
yet brilliant goal: Take money from oil and gas drilling and
put it toward the conservation of America’s public lands, parks
and other outdoor places.
We have a drinking water crisis in California—a crisis that has
disproportionately impacted disadvantaged neighborhoods and
communities of color for years. There is however hope as many
voices, from many different people, with various political
views, have now joined the fight to address this crisis.
A 174-page environmental report released by the U.S. Interior
Department will expedite new extraction on roughly 1 million
acres of Central and Southern California, primarily in the
historical oil fields around Bakersfield and the deep petroleum
deposits near Santa Barbara but potentially in the Sierra
Nevada as well.
An oil company’s request to conduct fracking off the coast of
Ventura was denied by a federal judge this week. The
Ventura-based DCOR, L.L.C. oil and natural gas company will not
be allowed to proceed with its two proposed permits to conduct
fracking in the Santa Barbara Channel at Platform Gilda, which
is about 9 miles off the Ventura coast.
Drought isn’t the only danger to our water supply, as we have
discovered in the last few weeks. Deep under the ground, our
life-saving aquifers have been filling up from the rain. But on
the Oxnard Plain, oil drilling threatens what we’re working so
hard to protect.
Regulatory efforts to protect groundwater quality in western
Kern are forcing two of the county’s largest oil producers to
spend many millions of dollars over the next several years
moving or reworking dozens of disposal wells and other critical
The last thing California needs is another tax. But that’s what
Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed – a regressive water tax that
will hit financially challenged Californians hardest. … Yet
California’s taxpayers have been working so hard they have
showered the state with a $22 billion surplus. Spending a
fraction of that would take care of the clean water problem.
EPA won’t regulate any pollution to surface waters that passes
through groundwater. … If pollution travels through
groundwater, EPA says, it “breaks the causal chain” between a
source of pollution and surface waters. That could affect
regulation of pollution from a variety of sources, including
seepage from coal ash and manure management ponds, sewage
collection systems, septic system discharges, and accidental
spills and releases.
The main target of the order is Section 401 of the Clean Water
Act, which grants states the power to certify that construction
projects will not harm water quality. … The order directs the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consult with states and
tribes about whether Section 401 guidance should be modified.
Some state organizations have expressed firm opposition to the
administration’s attempt to supersede state permitting
U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said on Monday she
would ban all fossil fuel extraction on federal land and in
coastal waters, setting herself apart from a crowded field of
Democratic hopefuls who have made climate change a central
campaign issue but have yet to outline specific policies.
Statewide leaders in agriculture recently launched an
initiative to clean oilfield wastewater for use in arid Western
states, hoping to reduce the region’s carbon footprint and
improve the lives of ranchers and farmers.
Facing a wave of opposition over proposed fees for using well
water, the directors of a little-known public agency backed
away from a decision Thursday and agreed to consider an
alternative plan that would exempt rural residents and cost
other groundwater users far less overall.
David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick to the lead the
Interior Department, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday
amid persistent ethical concerns and doubts about his
independence from the energy and water industry groups he long
represented as a lobbyist.
Should the governor want to do away with fracking, he could
issue an emergency order placing a moratorium on it. But the
public hasn’t heard from Newsom on the issue as he has laid out
his initial priorities, and his staff did not answer questions
from CALmatters about his current leanings.
How can state and federal agencies help California’s largest
agricultural region address its difficult water management
problems? This was the theme of an event last week that brought
together PPIC experts with top officials working on issues
related to water, agriculture, and natural resources.
As Secretary, Jared Blumenfeld oversees the state’s efforts to
fight climate change, protect air and water quality, regulate
pesticides and toxic substances, achieve the state’s recycling
and waste reduction goals, and advance environmental justice.
… Blumenfeld joined TPR for an exclusive interview to discuss
the administration’s priorities…
A new rule goes into effect today that will help protect
California’s groundwater. … The new standards for oilfield
injection are some of the strongest in the nation. They require
stricter permitting standards, regular mechanical integrity
testing and routine pressure monitoring – all necessary
ingredients for safeguarding groundwater.
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is one step closer
to a decision on whether to approve ERG’s oil drilling and
production plan. It would include developing and operating more
than 200 new oil production wells in the Cat Canyon area. At
recent planning commission meetings, dozens of people have
shown up both in support and opposition to the project.
Supporters say it will increase jobs in the area, while
opponents express concern for the environment.
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for
unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all
public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance
in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We
talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to
ensure community involvement in water management
Environmental groups and local residents are sounding alarms
that proposed drilling projects would triple onshore oil
production in Santa Barbara County — to which the oil industry
says, “What’s wrong with that?”
A project offering to triple Santa Barbara County’s oil
production continues stirring debate. Environmentalists believe
a proposal to add dozens of oil wells in Cat Canyon could
trigger the next oil spill and contaminate the Santa Maria
Groundwater Basin, while supporters insist it would boost the
local economy by adding jobs and tax revenue.
A proposal to add 187 new steam-injected oil wells and a new
natural gas pipeline in West Cat Canyon will be considered by
the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission when it meets
Wednesday in Santa Maria. Project opponents have said they
intend to stage a demonstration outside and speak against the
project that would have significant impacts on biological,
surface water and groundwater resources and would increase
noise, according to the environmental impact report.
More than 300 communities across the state and one out of every
four schools in the Central Valley lack access to safe drinking
water, according to the state Water Board. … Responding to
the crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for a new water tax.
If the proposal passes, the levy will generate $110 million in
annual revenue. But some Californians – many working directly
with the state’s water authorities – oppose the plan. They say
there are better ways to raise the money needed than taxing tap
In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management
can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct
or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The
stakes are high. Felice Pace, an activist who works for the
North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action
about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community
involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater
The cheering is for a governor who has brought attention to a
problem that’s almost unfathomable in wealthy urban regions. No
Californian in 2019 should have to endure third-world
drinking-water conditions. But there’s ample reason to give the
governor the raspberries, too. That’s because Newsom’s solution
comes right out of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “you
never want a serious crisis go to waste” playbook.
After concluding Greka Energy improperly stored hazardous waste
at its facility near Santa Maria, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency on Thursday ordered the company to conduct
sampling to determine whether its operations resulted in
contaminated local soil and groundwater.
Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency released
its enforcement data for fiscal year 2018, and in many key
areas data continued to show a downward trend in the civil and
criminal punitive measures meted out to large polluters. And on
Tuesday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced it
will hold a hearing next week to investigate the Trump EPA’s
“troubling enforcement record.”
A controversial oilfield wastewater disposal operation east of
Bakersfield has been shut down amid a years-long regulatory
crackdown and opposition by environmental activist
organizations. The Jan. 3 closure … puts an end to a
practice regional water quality regulators say threatened to
foul Bakersfield’s water supply through a slow process of
Newsom has embraced an idea that has previously failed to gain
traction in Sacramento: new taxes totaling as much as $140
million a year for a clean drinking water initiative. Much of
it would be spent on short- and long-term solutions for
low-income communities without the means to finance operations
and maintenance for their water systems. … But the money
to change that — what’s being called a “water tax” in state
Capitol circles — is where the politics get complicated.
Valley Water Management Company, a non-profit company that
disposes of wastewater for dozens of oil operators in
California, has halted discharges at two facilities where
environmentalists say wastewater contaminated groundwater
resources. The closure stems from a lawsuit filed by Clean
Water Action, the Center for Environmental Health, and the
grassroots group Association of Irritated Residents in 2015
Water is becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world.
Water tables have been falling in many regions for decades,
particularly in areas with intensive agriculture. Wells are
going dry and there are few long-term solutions available — a
common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells. This is exactly
what happened in California’s Central Valley. The recent
drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper water
wells to support irrigated agriculture.
The two-week-old shutdown has halted one of the federal
government’s most important public health activities, the
inspections of chemical factories, power plants, oil
refineries, water treatment plants, and thousands of other
industrial sites for pollution violations.
At the Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater
Congress, a panel of experts discussed emerging issues as
agencies work to develop their plans to comply with the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in
California in 2014.
The ominous climate change report the Trump administration
released on Thanksgiving weekend could provide legal ammunition
for states such as California, which are suing or threatening
to sue the federal government over weakened regulations on
fossil-fuel industries, automobiles and other contributors to a
The parade of trailer trucks rolling through Jay Butler’s dusty
ranch is a precursor to a new fracking boom on the vast federal
lands of Wyoming and across the West. … Like the acreage
offered for lease, the acreage actually leased by energy
companies on federal lands hit its highest level last year
since 2012, the height of the initial fracking boom in the
You won’t be seeing much of California’s gubernatorial
candidates this fall — at least, you won’t be seeing much of
them together. The only debate between Democrat Gavin Newsom
and Republican John Cox took place on KQED’s Forum radio
program Monday. Prompted by host Scott Shafer, the two had a
lengthy exchange about the state’s approach to climate change.
A Canadian energy company will add to its helium operation with
more than 3,000 acres of newly leased federal land near
Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona.
… Several rivers and streams flow near the leased
parcels and empty into the Colorado River, which supplies water
to 40 million Americans.
Ending a five-year moratorium, the Trump administration
Wednesday took a first step toward opening 1.6 million acres of
California public land to fracking and conventional oil
drilling, triggering alarm bells among environmentalists.
Protect Monterey County, the organization that backed a 2016
anti-fracking ballot initiative called Measure Z, announced it
filed an appeal this week challenging a judge’s ruling that
invalidated part of the ordinance.
California’s attorney general sued the Trump administration yet
again Wednesday, this time for rolling back a fracking rule
that the state says is designed to protect public health and
the environment. The suit challenges the federal Bureau of Land
Management’s move against the rule that requires drilling
companies to disclose what chemicals they’ve used for fracking.
After combing through a decade’s worth of Pennsylvania birth
records, researchers have found that pregnant women living
within two-thirds of a mile of a hydraulic fracturing well were
25% more likely to give birth to a worryingly small infant than
were women who lived at least 10 miles outside that zone during
During the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion in Bonn, Germany, on
Nov. 11, Gov. [Jerry] Brown presented America’s Pledge report
detailing how U.S. cities, states and businesses will take
action on climate targets it set forth in the Paris Agreement.
… But Brown was interrupted by members of the Native
American community speaking against his support of fracking and
contending that his policies have hurt low-income communities.