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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Earthjustice, Sierra Club and Center of Biological Diversity
File Lawsuit to Halt California Oil Injection Practices

May, 2015

On May 7, Earthjustice, on behalf of Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court to halt the oil industry from injecting fracking waste water into protected aquifers.

California Department of Conservation has allowed construction of at least 2,500 wells that inject fluids which include oil well waste directly into protected aquifers. Half of these permits were issued in the last four years. 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.

The response from the Brown Administration's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has been to establish "emergency" regulations that allow the injection wells to continue until at least 2017.

Oil wastewater in California typically contains high levels of cancer-causing benzene, according to testing done by DOGGR and oil companies. Wastewater can also include fracking fluid, which often contains chemicals that are linked to serious human health problems, including cancer and birth defects.

"Existing state and federal laws rightly recognize that groundwater is a precious commodity, and for decades, the law has protected both the aquifers already in use as well as those that might come into future use," said Nathan Matthews of Sierra Club. "DOGGR's emergency rule turns legal tradition on its head and gives the oil and gas industry free rein to contaminate California's aquifers prior to determining whether the ground water will be needed in the future."

Sierra Club California is the sponsoring chapter for the Club's role in the suit. (Source: Sierra Club California)

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