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Brown Governor’s Office c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814 Re: Unreported Information on Fracking and Other Well Stimulation Violates California Law Dear Governor Brown: I write to you on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity to bring your attention to unlawful and widespread reporting failures in the state’s implementation of regulations on fracking and other well stimulation methods. Because of more than 100 blatant violations of fracking disclosure rules, Californians have repeatedly been left uninformed about many dangerous well stimulation activities occurring in their communities. The Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has failed to publicly post legally mandated reports for 47 fracks and legally required notices for more than 100 uses of acidizing and gravel packing. Other reports are missing critical information, including the chemical composition of fracking waste fluid. DOGGR has also failed to meet regulatory deadlines for posting critical information about fracking and other extreme well stimulation methods, posting dozens of records only after my organization brought attention to the unlawful delay. This lack of disclosure underscores the failure of current regulations and the need for strong action that will protect public health and safety and the environment. Because Californians cannot rely on the oil industry to follow minimal regulations and cannot count on DOGGR to enforce such rules, we urge you to use your authority to immediately implement a prohibition on fracking, acidizing and other dangerous forms of well stimulation. Missing Acidizing Notices Starting January 1, 2014, under Senate Bill 4’s interim regulations, well operators must submit a Notice of Well Stimulation to DOGGR at least 10 days prior to a well stimulation event such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or acidizing.1 Last month, we wrote to your office explaining that the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) had collected data on 57 acidizing events in Orange and Los Angeles counties. DOGGR’s website, however, did not show a notice for even a single one of these events on its reporting website. To date, not a single notice for the 57 acidizing events appears on the DOGGR website. It is our understanding from conversations with the Natural Resources Agency that DOGGR has not received any notices from the operators of these well stimulation events. DOGGR has still been unable to provide an answer as to why this is the case. If there are 57 missing acidizing reports from just two counties, it is worrisome to think how many other acidizing events from across the state have gone unreported.
14 Cal. Code of Regs. § 1783.
Missing Gravel Packing Notices We also wrote to you last month to call your attention to the failure of oil and gas well operators to submit notices for gravel packing operations. SB 4 requires operators to submit notices for all types of well stimulation, not just hydraulic fracturing and acidizing. The SCAQMD data show that gravel packing, which requires the use of dangerous chemicals, has occurred in Orange and Los Angeles counties approximately 51 times so far this year. Yet DOGGR’s website does has not posted a notice from a single instance of gravel packing from anywhere in the state. So far, DOGGR has not explained why it has chosen not to collect or post notices of gravel packing, nor has there been any indication that it would investigate operators who have used gravel packing without first submitting a Notice of Well Stimulation, as required under SB 4 and the interim regulations. Delayed Posting of 60-day Well Stimulation Reports Under SB 4, operators must submit certain information to the Chemical Disclosure Registry, commonly referred to as FracFocus, within 60 days after the cessation of fracking.2 If FracFocus cannot receive certain types of information, then the information must be reported directly to DOGGR. Well stimulation other than fracking must be reported directly to DOGGR. DOGGR, in turn, must post the information to its website within 15 days of receiving the report.3 While some reports have been submitted to DOGGR as early as February 20, 2014, DOGGR failed to post any of these well stimulation reports to its website. It was not until the Center lodged complaints about the lack of information that DOGGR did finally disclose some of the reports it had been withholding for over two months. The unreasonable delay by DOGGR is evidence that the regulations for reporting and disclosure are not working. Missing 60-Day Well Stimulation Reports for 47 Fracks Even with the recent postings, the website lists less than half of the 60-day reports that should be accessible. FracFocus has records for 77 instances of hydraulic fracturing that occurred in California between January 1, 2014, and February 24, 2014. Because 60 days has elapsed since then, each and every occurrence reported to FracFocus during this period should, by now, have a corresponding well stimulation report on DOGGR’s site. But to date, only 30 hydraulic fracking events have been posted to DOGGR’s site. Thus the public is seeing legally required disclosures from less than half of all hydraulic fracking events. As mentioned above, other well stimulation events may not be reported at all, and thus the reports on DOGGR’s site may represent only a small portion of the actual well stimulation that is occurring in the state. Clearly, “mandatory” reporting requirements are failing, and the public is left in the dark with regard to a large portion of well stimulation information. DOGGR has made no indication that it intends to fine companies that violate the reporting requirements or investigate how many other well stimulation incidents have occurred that have not been reported. Missing Information from Posted 60-day Reports Even for the reports that have been posted to DOGGR’s website (after much delay and pressure from the public), key categories of information are not included in these reports. The interim regulations
Pub. Res. Code §§ 3160(g)(1), 3161(b)(1); 14 Cal. Code of Regs § 1788. Pub. Res. Code §§3160(g)(2), 3161(b)(1).
require operators to publicly disclose 19 different categories of information following any well stimulation activity.4 The categories of information that must be disclosed include: The source, volume, and specific composition and disposition of all water associated with the well stimulation treatment; The specific composition and disposition of all well stimulation treatment fluids, including waste fluids, other than water; and The estimated volume of well stimulation treatment fluid that has been recovered.5
The composition of all water associated with the well stimulation is a crucial set of data, one that informs the public which chemicals, and how much of each, chemical, are flowing to the surface along with the oil and gas that the well produces. The public’s risk of harm through exposure cannot be adequately assessed while this information remains unreported. The composition of water could include harmful chemicals used in well stimulation such as methanol, formaldehyde, or 2-butoxyethanol, all of which are commonly used in well stimulation processes. The water may also include heavy metals such as lead, mercury, or arsenic, which occur underground but are carried to the surface during oil and gas production. Unfortunately, all 30 reports that have been posted so far fail to disclose the chemical composition of the water resulting from well stimulation. In each case, the report simply notes that the chemical analysis is “Pending,” despite the fact that in some case, nearly four months have elapsed since the well stimulation occurred. Furthermore, reports fail to list the chemical composition of “all well stimulation treatment fluids, including waste fluids, other than water. Thus, the well operator should be disclosing the composition of the waste stimulation fluid that is collected as waste fluid after well stimulation is performed. In every single report, the specific composition of fluids other than water is noted with an “N/A.” It is unclear why the reporting requirement would be “not applicable” to any well stimulation operation. A portion of well stimulation treatment fluid will return to the surface after injection, and will still contain many harmful chemicals. Regulations also require the disclosure of the volume of recovered waste stimulation treatment fluid. Here too, the reports posted provided no information as to how much fluid has been recovered. An oil well operator in Shafter, California was fined for illegally dumping hydraulic fracturing fluid into an unlined sump last year. It was not until a lengthy investigation was complete that the public knew exactly what chemicals were included in that waste fluid. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board found levels of benzene and diesel-range hydrocarbons to be in excess of 30 times their respective maximum contaminant levels. Thus, any report without a complete analysis of the composition of waste fluid keeps the public uninformed about the nature and extent of the risk from waste fluid. The reports also fail to provide critical information about the disposition of water. It is important to know the location of the injection well where the water is being disposed. Waste fluid injected into disposal wells have been shown to cause larger and more frequent earthquakes in many parts of the country. Given California’s large and active fault lines, knowing where wastewater is being injected helps
14 Cal. Code of Regs. § 1788(a). For a full list of required disclosures, see id.
the public better understand and prepare for the risks of earthquakes if waste disposal is occurring near active fault lines. A recent study showed that over half of the injection wells in the state are within 10 miles of an active fault. Six percent, or 87 wells, are within one mile. If any disposition of wastewater involves these wells, the public should be notified of the danger. Despite these risks, each report simply states that the water is “dispos[ed] into Class II injection well,” without any further information on where the injection well is located. Again, the public is left with woefully inadequate information that could help assess the extent and severity of the risk posed by well stimulation and related activity. Recommended Action Given the blatant violations of the interim well stimulation regulations, we urge you to direct your agency to fine operators who have performed well stimulation and have not disclosed all of the required information within 60 days. Under S.B. 4, DOGGR may assess a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per day per violation of the regulations.6 Each day after the 60-day reporting period should trigger an additional penalty, the amount of which should reflect the pervasiveness, the ongoing and persistent nature, and the serious risk of harm posed by the violation. You should also initiate an investigation regarding the reasons for delays in posting the information, and explanations for missing reports. Finally, given that the implementation of reporting requirements has largely failed, we urge you to also immediately implement an emergency moratorium on further well stimulation in the state. The lack of reporting is just one of several shortcomings of current regulations that make clear that the law provides inadequate protection for public health and safety. Because the public cannot rely on the industry to follow even minimal regulatory obligations and cannot rely on DOGGR to enforce them, stopping fracking and the other dangerous well stimulation methods is the only way to protect Californians. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working together toward a healthier and safer California. Sincerely,
Hollin Kretzmann Staff Attorney Center for Biological Diversity 351 California Street, Suite 600 San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 436-9682
Pub. Res. Code § 3236.5(a)
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