Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 8, 2016

Contact: Hollin Kretzmann, (510) 844-7133,

California Officials Propose Allowing Oil Companies to
Dump Waste Fluid Into Dozens of Underground Water Supplies

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— California oil officials today revealed a plan to turn dozens of underground sources of drinking water across the state over to the oil industry for disposal of contaminated waste fluid. The proposal includes aquifers in Monterey, Ventura, Kern and other counties (see interactive map).

Under the plan from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, state regulators will make up to 60 applications in the next four months asking the Environmental Protection Agency to exempt California aquifers from federal drinking-water protections. If the EPA approves the state’s applications, oil companies would be allowed to operate injection wells and dump waste fluid into these underground drinking water sources.

“State oil regulators’ disturbing proposal to sacrifice dozens of aquifers to the oil industry is an enormous threat to California’s water supplies,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The federal EPA must stop this incredibly foolish plan to let oil companies dump polluted waste fluid into these underground water sources.”

Oil wastewater commonly contains cancer-causing benzene and other pollutants, according to the oil division’s own testing. Flowback fluid coming out of fracked wells in California contains benzene at levels as high as 1,500 times the federal limits for drinking water, according to oil companies’ own tests.

The aquifer exemption proposals follow admissions by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration that state regulators let oil companies drill thousands of wells and dump oil waste into scores of protected underground water supplies across California, 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.

“Gov. Jerry Brown’s regulators seem determined to give our underground water away to the oil industry,” Kretzmann said. “If we let oil companies contaminate these aquifers and endanger nearby water resources, Californians are going to bitterly regret that decision in the dry decades to come.”

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.

Go back