Press Release

State Gives Big Oil and Gas a Free Pass to Continue Endangering California’s Dwindling Groundwater

Emergency regulations allow operators to continue injecting potentially toxic wastewater into federally protected drinking water

Kimiko Martinez, 310-434-2344, kmartinez@nrdc.org

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (April 2, 2015) – The California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) today announced a plan – developed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – to bring into compliance thousands of wells currently injecting potentially toxic wastewater and other fluids into protected drinking water aquifers. The agency’s emergency regulations create a path to potentially exempt these aquifers from environmental laws designed to protect them, making the wells technically compliant with state and federal regulations but not necessarily protecting the drinking water in those aquifers, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

California and EPA have allowed oil and gas operators to inject potentially toxic wastewater into federally protected drinking water for decades. Now in its fourth consecutive year of drought, California’s precious water supplies are dwindling and citizens have raised concerns over the potential contamination of groundwater.

The regulations come just one day after Governor Brown announced statewide mandatory water reductions in response to the ongoing drought and record-low snow.

Following is a statement from Briana Mordick, staff scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s land and wildlife program:

“The  plan to ‘fix’ this problem is not to stop it, but rather to give the oil industry official permission to keep doing it – by declaring this drinking water ‘exempt’ from the environmental laws designed to protect it. DOGGR is right to acknowledge this problem, but today’s announcement is not the solution. 

“The fact is that continuing to inject potentially toxic wastewater into federally protected drinking water is simply unacceptable. These wells should be shut down immediately. And they should remain shut down until full investigations of any contamination are complete. The outdated, inadequate exemption rules written 30 years ago shouldn’t be used to sacrifice any more groundwater.”

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