A Strong Legacy of Environmental Protection
In California, we’re fortunate to live in a state with abundant natural resources, including oil and gas, and our well-earned international reputation for environmental stewardship shows how seriously citizens, regulators and elected officials are about using these resources responsibly. Indeed, we have some of the toughest, if not the toughest, environmental laws and regulations in the country.
Here in California, all aspects of oil and gas production are overseen by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). All oil and gas wells in California, including those that are hydraulically fractured, require numerous permits from DOGGR and oil and gas producers must submit comprehensive drilling applications that are reviewed by state engineers.
Companies must comply with the strict requirements of laws and regulations to allow for the responsible production of oil and natural gas while protecting the environment. For example, well-casing and well-integrity standards are in place to the keep the oil and gas being produced sealed off from underground sources of fresh water.
The following California Public Resources Code sections, among others, apply to oil and gas development:
Additionally, the following state agencies are also involved in regulating California’s oil and gas industry:
- State Water Resources Control Board
- Regional Water Quality Control Boards
- California Integrated Waste Management Board
- California Air Resources Board
- Air Quality Management or Air Pollution Control Districts
- Department of Toxic Substances Control.
Overall, DOGGR says California imposes stringent rules on the development of oil and gas wells:
“All oil and gas wells drilled and constructed in California must adhere to strict requirements. These requirements include general laws and regulations regarding the protection of underground and surface water, and specific regulations regarding the integrity of the well casing, the cement used to secure the well casing inside the bore hole, and the cement and equipment used to seal off the well from underground zones bearing fresh water and other hydrocarbon resources. … California’s requirements for the protection of underground resources and well construction standards provide a first line of protection from potential damage caused by hydraulic fracturing.”
While DOGGR says that hydraulic fracturing has been used relatively rarely in California compared to other states, there is increasing interest in using this technology to develop the energy resources trapped within the Monterey Shale. With that in mind, DOGGR is currently updating its regulations to specifically address hydraulic fracturing. The California Independent Petroleum Association supports this process, and new regulatory requirements that “require the disclosure of when and where hydraulic fracturing occurs, a list of chemicals injected, and the volumes of water used, consistent with the same approach taken by other states that have recently enacted reporting based regulations.” CIPA also notes that California oil and gas companies have already started reporting to the hydraulic fracturing disclosure registry used by other states, FracFocus.
DOGGR’s proposed regulations, released in December 2012, include advance notification of hydraulic fracturing operations, monitoring both during and after those operations, and the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids. You can read an explanation of the proposed regulations here.
A formal rulemaking process with stakeholder workshops, hearings and a public comment period is expected to start in February 2013, according to DOGGR.