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.
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
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…
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
Although the majority of Americans get their drinking water
from a municipal, public supply, 1 in 7 rely on private water
wells. Though wells for drinking water and wells for oil and
gas production are known to exist in the same geographic
regions, their proximity to one another across the United
States was uncertain. … “Forty-five million Americans rely on
private groundwater wells for their drinking water,” says Scott
Jasechko, assistant professor at Bren School of Environmental
Science & Management, University of California at Santa
Attorneys on all sides began presenting their cases on the
first day of the Measure Z trial on Monday, arguing over
whether the voter-approved initiative establishing some of the
nation’s toughest oil and gas restrictions is preempted by
federal and state authority. … They [oil industry
attorneys] argued the Measure Z campaign had misled voters into
believing the central issue was fracking and water protection
without fully addressing other aspects of the initiative.
… as the [Interior] secretary [Ryan Zinke] hopscotches across
millions of acres of Western parks, monuments and wilderness
with his Stetson-sporting swagger, a crew of political
appointees in Washington has begun rolling back the
conservation efforts put in effect over the eight years of the
Obama administration. … Mr. Zinke’s staff on Tuesday filed a
legal proposal to rescind the nation’s first safety regulation
on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Over the past decade, innovation has upended the energy
industry. First came the shale revolution. Starting around
2005, companies began to unlock massive new supplies of natural
gas, and then oil, from shale basins, thanks to two new
technologies: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or
Eminent domain is often used by governments to gain
right-of-way for projects such as highways or government
buildings. But state and federal regulators who authorize
pipeline projects also typically grant the private companies
that are building them the right to use eminent domain to
secure needed right-of-way.
Gov. Jerry Brown was on a roll, enthusiastically preaching to a
choir of environmentalists about how carbon use and global
warming are a looming catastrophe for California and the world.
… But a growing number of environmentalists argue that the
governor’s long-standing refusal to ban hydraulic fracking, a
controversial process that has helped revive the oil industry
in California, opens the state to just the type of
environmental disasters he regularly rails against.
The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama
administration rule requiring companies that drill for oil and
natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in
hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.
Mineral rights and royalty owners have filed a new lawsuit
against Monterey County, challenging voter-approved Measure Z,
which establishes some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on
oil and gas operations in the state’s fourth-largest
oil-producing county. … Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking,
and wastewater injection into aquifers will still be prohibited
during the stay.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously
approved a letter to the California Department of Conservation
expressing their concerns about a proposal to expand the
boundaries of an aquifer where oil-production wastewater is
The suit argues that the U.S. Department of the Interior and
two of its agencies, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and
the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, failed to
fully analyze and disclose the potential environmental risks of
new offshore drilling processes like hydraulic fracturing, also
known as fracking, and acidization.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris and the California Coastal
Commission have filed a lawsuit challenging the federal
government’s finding that fracking off the state’s coast is
Is hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking – safe, as
the oil and gas industry claims? Or does the controversial
drilling technique that has spurred a domestic energy boom
contaminate drinking water, as environmental groups and other
With the passage of Measure Z, which has captured nearly 56
percent of the vote so far, Monterey County would become the
first oil-producing county in California to ban fracking and
expansion of risky oil operations. … Monterey County,
which ranks fourth statewide in oil production, becomes the
sixth county in California to ban fracking.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management from opening more than 1 million acres in Central
California to oil drilling because the agency did not properly
explore the potential dangers of fracking.
A coalition of environmental groups had worked for more than
two years to persuade [Alameda] county leaders to ban fracking
and other high intensity oil recovery practices to protect
against pollution of local groundwater. The Board of
Supervisors approved the ban 5-0.
A federal judge in Wyoming has struck down the Obama
administration’s regulations on hydraulic fracturing, ruling
that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management doesn’t have the
authority to establish rules over fracking on federal and
A judge ruled Tuesday that federal regulators lack the
authority to set rules for hydraulic fracturing, dealing
another setback to the Obama administration’s efforts to
tighten how fossil fuels are mined.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned the
disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste water at public sewage
plants, formalizing a voluntary practice that removed most
fracking waste from Pennsylvania plants starting in 2011. The
EPA on Monday finalized a rule that prevents operators from
disposing of waste from unconventional oil & gas operations at
publicly owned treatment works [POTW's].
Reversing course on conducting a series of impact studies, the
Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to place a proposed ban
on hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas well stimulation
techniques on the fall ballot.
Bernie Sanders, traipsing across far-flung regions of
California as he seeks a comeback victory here next week,
swatted at likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump
for minimizing the state’s water shortage and the effects of
Backers of a proposed initiative aimed at banning fracking and
other oil and gas exploration practices announced Thursday
their petition signatures have been verified and deemed
sufficient by the Monterey County registrar of voters just days
after the Board of Supervisors ordered impact studies on the
The group Protect Monterey County delivered 16,108 signatures
Wednesday to the Monterey County Elections Department in
support of putting an initiative on the November ballot to ban
fracking and dangerous oil production practices in the county.
Colorado’s Supreme Court on Monday struck down local government
prohibitions on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, handing oil
and gas companies a victory in a lengthy battle over energy
production in the environmentally conscious state.
More than five years after Oklahoma first saw a startling spike
in earthquakes linked to the disposal of huge volumes of
wastewater created by hydraulic fracturing for oil, the state
continues to shake at an unprecedented rate and the number of
strong quakes is increasing.
Hoping to expand on similar bans already in place in Santa
Cruz, San Benito and Mendocino counties, environmentalists on
Tuesday launched a ballot campaign to prohibit fracking in
Monterey County, setting the stage for another expensive battle
with the oil industry over the controversial drilling
UC Santa Cruz researcher Thomas Goebel suggests that, in fact,
we do have induced earthquakes here. His latest paper, in the
journal Geophysical Research Letters, is a detailed study of an
earthquake swarm that occurred beneath the Tejon Oil Field
south of Bakersfield on September 22, 2005.
For years fracking in waters off California was quietly
approved without public notice or studies on potential risks to
human and environmental health from tons of toxic chemicals
used in the intense oil-extraction process.
The federal government has agreed to stop approving oil
fracking off the California coast until it studies whether the
practice is safe for the environment, according to legal
settlements filed Friday.
As Gov. Jerry Brown prepares for his trip to the United Nations
summit on climate change in Paris, protesters gathered outside
the Capitol on Thursday to say he hasn’t done enough at home in
The issue of the governor’s request came to light as part of a
lawsuit against the state by farmers who accuse the state of
doing an inadequate job of preventing water pollution from oil
and gas drilling.
A group of U.S. drilling states, seismologists, academics and
industry experts issued guidance Monday in a frank new report
on handling human-induced earthquakes caused by hydraulic
fracturing or the disposal of fracking wastewater.
The Colorado Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether
cities can ban hydraulic fracturing, stepping into a
high-stakes battle over whether local governments can impose
tougher oil and gas rules than the state.