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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Sierra Club Condemns State Injection Well Practices, Calls for Investigation

February, 2015

Sierra Club at all levels, National, State and Ventana Chapter continue the fight against fracking in California. This week the Associated Press reported that more than 2,500 injection wells that put federally protected aquifers at risk in California have been permitted by the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), a California State agency under the Department of Conservation responsible for permitting oil and gas extraction. Nearly half of those—or 1,172—have been permitted in the last four years.

The oil industry uses injection wells to dispose of liquid waste created in the process of drilling for oil and to dispose of waste water produced during the long term production of oil from existing wells. The injections are convenient for oil companies because drilling and production can bring up as much as 13 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of petroleum. One of the easiest disposal methods is to deposit that wastewater back underground. Shallow well injection into ground water supplies is included in this unsafe process.

This waste includes a soup of chemicals used in fracking and other well stimulation techniques, as well as contaminated water pulled up from underground during drilling. State records show that this practice can introduce toxic levels of contaminants that can ruin water supplies for drinking or watering crops and livestock.

These permits have been issued despite growing warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) since 2011 that state regulators were out of compliance with federal laws meant to protect underground drinking-water stores from oilfield contamination. State and federal agencies are reviewing the permit process and DOGGR has until 2017 to actually stop injection into aquifers that USEPA has not designated for waste disposal.

Sierra Club CA Director of Sierra Club California issued this response to the news:
"It is extraordinarily distressing that for so many years the state has essentially put California's diminishing water supply in the pathway of serious pollution. If this were a one-time incident it would be bad enough. But to permit thousands of questionable wells defies common sense.

It's time for an outside investigation into DOGGR's practices. While USEPA's calling for a plan to stop injecting into sensitive aquifers is commendable, that's not enough. It's time for the U.S. Attorney's office to investigate how and why this permitting continued even after the federal agency warnings."

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