News Feature | August 20, 2014

California Fights Fracking

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


California is cracking down on oil and gas operations that may pose a threat to the water supply. 

State officials "ordered an emergency shutdown of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites in Kern County [in July], fearing they may be contaminating sources of drinking water that are sorely needed in the drought-stricken state," Desmog Blog reported

The emergency orders were issued by the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), according to the Bakersfield Californian. The division told operators that they might be injecting waste into drinking water aquifers, Propublica reported

The division stated that this may be posing "a danger to life, health, property, and natural resources," according to Propublica. "The state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells."

The action extends an effort by the department to increase its scrutiny of the effects of fracking. It comes amid "a year-old crackdown on industry practices for disposing of oil field fluids. But the orders are distinct in that recent scrutiny has originated with regional water officials focused not on injection wells but oil companies' misuse of unlined sumps and drilling pits," the Californian reported. 

Oil and gas companies may have been surprised by the development. 

"This is somewhat shocking," said Dwayne Roach, president of Bakersfield's Pace Diversified Corp, to the Californian. He said his facility is upholding legal practices, "so I'm not sure how that can be viewed as contaminating [the water supply]."

California does not have a drop of water to waste. The state's agriculture industry is coping "with a drought crisis that has emptied reservoirs and cost the state $2.2 billion this year alone. The lack of water has forced farmers across the state to supplement their water supply from underground aquifers, according to a study released this week by the University of California Davis," Propublica reported. 

Fracking advocates say the practice is a boon to the state economy. 

"Fracking-related projects add about $283 billion to U.S. GDP every year. Fracking has brought a dramatic expansion in the domestic American energy industry, leading to hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions in new growth. Expanded use of the drilling technique could boost California's economic activity by 14.3 percent, according to work from the University of Southern California," 

Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Energy Corp, wrote in the San Jose Mercury News

For more oil and gas news, visit Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center.

Image credit: "Oil Rig," fussy onion © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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