Environmental groups submit 22,000 petition signatures in advance of March 10 oversight hearing on California’s Underground Injection Control Program

 

Contacts:
Andrew Grinberg, CWA, 415-298-8314
Jenesse Miller, CLCV, 510-844-0235

Logos of CLCV, CRPE, CWA, CWC, EWG, and Leadership CounselSacramento, Calif.—March 10, 2015—In light of reports that revealed that oil and gas operators have been injecting chemically-contaminated fluids into underground sources of drinking water in California, and in advance of a critical oversight hearing on the state’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, six environmental groups delivered more than 22,000 petition signatures calling on Governor Jerry Brown and his administration to shut down the more than 2,000 injection wells that remain in operation.

In addition, the groups will look for answers to the following questions at today's hearing:

  • Why is the state allowing over 2,000 wells that violate the Safe Drinking Water Act and remain open (some until October 2015, some until February 2017)?
  • Has the state done adequate testing yet to determine any potential impacts to groundwater?
  • Does the state have accurate data about which chemicals are in the fluids that have been injected into aquifers and is that data open to the public?
  • In addition to illegal injection, it has recently come to light that there are hundreds of unpermitted unlined open pits used for oil and gas wastewater disposal, yet have not been shut down. Why is this disposal method being used and why is the state allowing illegal dumping into open pits?

The state’s Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)—the government agency under Governor Brown tasked with supervising these operations—recently confirmed that they had authorized the injection into potentially useable groundwater. Last week, DOGGR announced they had shut down a small percentage of the wells in question. Despite public outcry and in obvious violation of federal law, oil and gas companies are continuing with state-authorized injection into high quality groundwater to solve their hazardous waste disposal problems.

“California officials must put an immediate halt to the injection of wastewater into our aquifers,” said Sarah Rose, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “As Californians, we understand the value and growing scarcity of our groundwater, and extreme drought has bound us together in our struggle to conserve. It is the duty of our elected officials and regulatory agencies to protect sources of water that would be suitable for drinking or agricultural uses.”

“Allowing oil companies to willfully violate federal law is completely unacceptable," said Andrew Grinberg, oil and gas program manager at Clean Water Action. "The Safe Drinking Water Act is intended to protect our current and future drinking water sources, but even as water becomes more scarce by the day, the state has decided it's okay to let oil companies continue injecting toxic fluids into high quality groundwater.”

“These revelations must be put into the context of the industry’s long-standing characterization of Kern County as essentially being a desert, underlain by either saline or naturally hydrocarbon-polluted waters,” said Bill Allayaud, California Director of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “Meanwhile, they are pumping up perfectly good groundwater for their oil drilling projects while at the same time dumping dirty water into aquifers that should not be sacrificed.”

On Thursday, March 5, staff from environmental and justice groups delivered more than 22,000 petition signatures to the governor’s office from members of the following groups: California League of Conservation Voters; Center for Race, Poverty, and the Environment; Clean Water Action; Community Water Center; Environmental Working Group; and Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability. The text of the petition (online at www.ecovote.org/pollutionalert) to Governor Jerry Brown is below:

“I am writing to urge you to immediately order the shutdown of the roughly 2,000 oil and gas injection wells that may currently be impacting underground sources of drinking water. The Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has determined that these wells are injecting into aquifers that should be protected under the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet that very same agency is allowing these activities to continue. Our state is facing one of the worst droughts on record. With California’s groundwater resources seriously depleted, we need strong leadership for drinking water protection, not more business as usual. I urge you to stand up to Big Oil and direct DOGGR to take immediate action to shut these wells down today.”

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