News Feature | December 13, 2013

California Regulators Take First Ever Action Against Fracking Company

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Regulators slapped fines on an oil company for illegally discarding fracking wastewater—the first time authorities in California have taken this punitive step. 

The company, Vintage Production, was caught on camera using questionable practices. Vintage is a unit of Occidental Petroleum. 

The $60,000 settlement with Vintage Production marks "the first state action against an oil company involving hydraulic fracturing or fracking -- extracting oil from shale by injecting it with water and chemicals," the Fresno Bee reported

The act was taped by a local farmer last year, and the settlement was unveiled last month. The farmer posted the video to YouTube. 

CBS San Francisco reported: "Kern County farmer Tom Frantz knew an oil company was drilling new wells in the almond orchards near his farm in the town of Shafter. What he didn’t know was that the video he recorded of the drilling and hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as 'fracking', caught Vintage Production doing something he suspected was illegal." 

Frantz posted the video to YouTube and sent it to the Regional Water Quality Control Board in the Central Valley.

"The water board’s executive officer, Clay Rodgers, said the video was essential in going after Vintage Production because it was caught in the act of doing something illegal," the report said. 

The illegal act: Dumping black liquid discharge into an unlined, open pit near the fracking site. Frantz was worried the wastewater could affect the water supply. 

“A big international oil company is breaking the law because nobody’s looking. And taking economic advantage of the law by cheating,” Frantz said in the CBS report. 

Regulators said Vintage had illegally discharged fracking fluid for 12 days, the report said. They posted the outcome online, and invited the public to comment.

The board's actions were based on "the determination that fluids discharged included potassium chloride, water, formation colloids, and linear fluid," the draft settlement said.  

"On November 15, Vintage agreed to pay the maximum fine of $60,000. It’s the first time California has fined an oil company over the fracking process," the report said. 

Vintage told CBS that "it has voluntarily analyzed soil samples and 'the data indicates compounds have not impacted the soil beneath.'"

"The water board said there will be more testing and if it is determined chemicals are leaching into the soil and ground water, Vintage will have to dig them up and properly remove them," the report said. 

For more fracking coverage, visit Water Online. 

Image credit: "Not used since 2005, an unlined CSG pond next to a well pad in the Pilliga," © 2012 kateausburn, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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