Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 24, 2015

Contact:  Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,
Ash Lauth,  (847) 340-4570 (onsite cell)

Californians in Hazmat Suits to Protest Oil Industry Aquifer Exemption Workshop

Demonstration Targets Dumping of Oil Waste Into Underground Water
Supplies as State Lawmakers Urge Halt to Polluting Practice

LONG BEACH, Calif.— Hazmat suit-wearing demonstrators with Californians Against Fracking will protest today outside a state-run “aquifer exemption” workshop in Long Beach aimed at helping oil companies get federal permission to dump oil waste into California’s underground water. The protest starts at noon at the Holiday Inn Long Beach Airport, 2640 N. Lakewood Blvd., Long Beach.

“Instead of this ‘Toxic Dumping for Dummies’ class, Gov. Jerry Brown’s regulators should protect our water from oil waste,” said Ash Lauth of Californians Against Fracking. “During this devastating drought, oil companies shouldn’t be allowed to use our aquifers as trash dumps for fracking flowback and other dangerous fluids.”

State Senator Fran Pavley and other lawmakers called on Gov. Brown in a letter last week to “stop illegal injection into non-exempt aquifers” to protect California’s water from oil waste.

California regulators recently admitted that oil companies are dumping toxic waste down hundreds of disposal wells — including wells in the Los Angeles area (interactive map) — into scores of protected aquifers in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Today the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is holding an “aquifer exemption” workshop aimed at helping oil companies exploit legal loopholes to get federal permission to continue this polluting practice.

Oil regulators admit to wrongly issuing about 500 permits for oil industry waste disposal wells that violate federal and state law. Since then, the state has shut down just 23 of the hundreds of illegal wells that have dumped billions of gallons of hazardous oil waste into protected aquifers. More than 2,000 enhanced oil recovery wells are also operating illegally in protected aquifers.

Up to half of California wells are fracked, according a recent report from the California Council on Science and Technology. Oil companies’ own tests show high levels of cancer-causing benzene in flowback fluid from fracked wells in California. Those tests, mandated by a new fracking disclosure law, found benzene at levels as high as 1,500 times the federal limits for drinking water. Those documents also show that fracking flowback is typically disposed of in wastewater injection wells.

Produced water, which comes from fracked wells and conventional wells alike, also can contain high levels of benzene and other chemicals. State oil officials’ own study detected levels thousands of times the federal limits. In California, roughly 113 billion gallons of produced water is dumped into wastewater disposal wells each month.

After the illegal aquifer dumping was revealed earlier this year, more than 150 environmental and community groups filed a legal petition urging Gov. Brown to use his emergency powers to place a moratorium on fracking and other well stimulation techniques.

Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter.

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