California Pledges Changes In Protecting Underground Water


February 10, 2015 | Associated Press | Ellen Knickmeyer

What to do with the enormous amounts of salty wastewater produced by oil and gas drilling?  Inside Energy continues to report on this issue, with a series of stories on wastewater spills in North Dakota and an upcoming story on shipping wastewater out of state.

The Associated Press reports California regulators may shut down 140 disposal wells that had been used to inject oil and gas wastewater into federally protected aquifers. The announcement is part of an EPA-ordered review that found more than 2,500 oil and gas disposal wells inject wastewater into aquifers that were supposed to be preserved for drinking water or watering crops.  Regulators say the 140 disposal wells are of particular concern because they have been injecting waste into aquifers containing particularly clean water.

The October deadline to close this group of injection wells, set by California, is part of a plan to bring the state’s oil and gas industry back into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. According to the Associated Press, Steve Bohlen, head of the California’s Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil & Gas, said these proposed changes were “long overdue.”

Protecting sources of water for both crops and drinking is a big issue in California, a state that has, since 2012, experienced one of the most severe droughts on record.

In addition to the potential for underground water contamination, Inside Energy has reported that oil and gas injection wells could be linked to earthquakes in Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Stephanie Joyce with Wyoming Public Radio reported that in January, scientists from the University of Miami found a direct connection between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes in Ohio. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, however, questioned the science behind that report, citing a study by Wyoming’s State Geological Survey that found no connection between injection wells and earthquakes in the state.