A controversial oilfield wastewater disposal operation east of Bakersfield has been shut down amid a years-long regulatory crackdown and opposition by environmental activist organizations. The Jan. 3 closure … puts an end to a practice regional water quality regulators say threatened to foul Bakersfield’s water supply through a slow process of underground migration.
Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable, and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that balance.
Valley Water Management Company, a non-profit company that disposes of wastewater for dozens of oil operators in California, has halted discharges at two facilities where environmentalists say wastewater contaminated groundwater resources. The closure stems from a lawsuit filed by Clean Water Action, the Center for Environmental Health, and the grassroots group Association of Irritated Residents in 2015
Felicia Marcus, whose push for larger river flows angered farmers and community leaders in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, won’t continue as chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. Gov. Gavin Newsom named Joaquin Esquivel as chairman of the powerful water regulatory board. … Laurel Firestone, co-founder of the Community Water Center, was appointed as the replacement for Marcus. … Firestone has been an advocate for addressing wells contaminated with nitrates.
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — have pushed for a statewide moratorium on the controversial oil production technique. With those efforts stalled in the state legislature, activists are taking the fight to the county level.
States where hydraulic fracturing is taking place have seen a surge in earthquake activity, raising suspicions that the unconventional drilling method could be to blame, especially the wells where the industry disposes of its wastewater.
“Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests and fragile watersheds or otherwise identified as higher pollution risks escape federal inspection, unchecked by an agency struggling to keep pace with America’s drilling boom, according to an Associated Press review that shows wide state-by-state disparities in safety checks.”
“The state Senate on Wednesday failed to muster the votes needed to set a moratorium on the oil drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until a study determines that it does not pose a health risk for the public.”
“An effort to halt the oil extraction process known as fracking failed in the California Senate as lawmakers rejected a bill that would have banned the practice until a state-commissioned study proves it is safe.”
From the Monterey County Herald, in a commentary by Bob Martin:
“… The truth is, hydraulic fracturing is a safe and proven energy extraction technique that has been used without incident for more than half of a century in California, and arbitrary bans on oil production threaten our state’s energy independence.”
From the Sacramento Business Journal Morning Edition blog:
“Lawmakers in the state Senate will decide this week on a law that would halt fracking in California until state government officials deem it safe – a move that could prevent the creation of some 195,000 jobs, according to figures provided by the oil industry.”
“The fierce debate over “fracking” in California grew louder Wednesday with a new report that drastically reduced the estimate of oil that existing technology could extract from the state’s massive underground reserve.”
“Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California’s vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national ‘black gold mine’ of petroleum. … It had been seen as an enormous bonanza, reducing the nation’s need for foreign oil imports through the use of the latest in extraction techniques, including acid treatments, horizontal drilling and fracking.”
“Donning hazardous material suits and carrying signs, more than a dozen anti-fracking protesters turned up at the California Coastal Commission meeting in Inverness Thursday to ask the regulatory agency to outlaw the practice.”
“Enemies of fracking have a new argument: drought. … The drought, combined with a recent set of powerful earthquakes, has provided the momentum for about a dozen local governments across California, the third-largest oil producing state, to vote to restrict or prohibit fracking in their jurisdictions, as concerns over environmental effects and water usage have grown.”