Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 12, 2016

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

California Announces Plan to Allow Oil Industry to Pollute More Underground Water

New U.S. EPA Letter Raises Questions About Brown Administration's
Efforts to Approve Oil Waste Disposal Into Aquifers

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— California oil regulators today proposed exempting another underground water source from protection under state and federal laws. If approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the proposed “aquifer exemption” would allow the oil industry to inject waste fluid into the Round Mountain aquifer in Kern County.

“This reckless plan from state oil officials puts yet another California underground water source at risk of pollution,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There have been active water supply wells within the proposed exempted area where dangerous injection wells have been operating illegally for years. The groundwater would be put in further jeopardy if the state allows oil and gas activity to expand.”

Dozens of water supply wells are located in the area of the aquifer exemption, which is about nine miles northeast of Bakersfield. The Kern County proposal comes as a newly released EPA letter raises questions about state officials’ February aquifer exemption application for an underground water supply in San Luis Obispo County’s Price Canyon area.

Citing inconsistencies and inadequacies in the San Luis Obispo aquifer application, EPA officials want state officials to provide more information to demonstrate that the Price Canyon aquifer “does not currently serve as a source of drinking water” and “that injected fluids will not flow beyond these proposed boundaries.”

The Kern County proposal is the second attempt by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration to seek an aquifer exemption following revelations last year that state oil regulators have been allowing oil companies to dump toxic waste into scores of protected underground water supplies across California (interactive map), in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Just a few dozen of those illegal injection wells have been shut down, and state officials hope to allow most of the remaining wells to continue operating by exempting aquifers from legal protection.

Oil officials say they plan in the coming months to ask the EPA to exempt dozens of other aquifers across the state from the Safe Drinking Water Act. But that planned wave of applications would violate the state’s agreement with the EPA, which contains a schedule calling for 90 percent of such applications aquifer applications to have been submitted by Feb. 15 of this year.

“State oil officials testified to California lawmakers last year that they would meet every deadline for dealing with these illegal wells, but they are shrugging off those promises just like they shrugged off their duty to protect our groundwater,” Golden-Krasner said.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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