Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 17, 2015

Contact: Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

100 California Oil Companies Illegally Refuse to Report Water Use, Waste Fluid Disposal

Incomplete Data Shows Millions of Gallons of Oil Waste Per Month
Dumped Into Unlined Pits, Waterways

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— More than 100 oil companies have violated a new California law by failing to report their water use and disposal of toxic waste fluid, according to a new report from state oil regulators.

But even the incomplete data made public by the state shows that oil companies are dumping millions of gallons of oil waste a month into unlined pits and pumping billions of gallons of fluid into injection wells that may threaten protected groundwater. Oil wastewater commonly contains high levels of cancer-causing benzene, according to testing by state officials and oil companies themselves.

“The oil industry is so desperate to hide its toxic threat to California’s water that companies are flouting a simple reporting law,” said Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This woefully incomplete report still paints a disturbing picture of billions of gallons of oil waste fluid being dumped into waterways, aquifers and unlined pits. Instead of coddling law-breaking companies, Governor Brown should take aggressive action to protect our precious water.”

The oil industry’s massive noncompliance comes despite a decision by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to extend the deadline for the reports, which are required by S.B. 1281, a new state law that aims to track oil companies’ use of fresh water and disposal of toxic waste fluid.

The first quarterly reports were due April 30. After widespread noncompliance from the oil industry, state regulators first extended the deadline to June 1 before finally issuing 289 notices of violation. Even after receiving notices, 104 operators still failed to file a report (though the state says it recently received four reports). State officials still have not fined companies for refusing to provide water-use information.

“This isn’t just about paperwork. This is information the public needs to understand what’s happening to California’s water supplies, including some that are used for drinking,” Kretzmann said.

The partial data collected so far reveal disturbing oil industry practices:

  • Over the first three months of 2015, oil companies dumped an average of 75 million gallons of oil wastewater a month into open, unlined pits — a practice that has contaminated underground and surface water supplies, according to a recent California Council on Science and Technology report.
  • The industry also dumped more than 13 billion gallons of oil waste into injection wells over the three months covered by the report, despite recent admissions from state officials that thousands of these injection wells have been operating in protected aquifers.
  • During that same period, oil companies discharged more than 10 million gallons of oil waste into surface waterways.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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