California issued 24 hydraulic fracturing permits on Friday, authorizing the first new oil wells in the state since July of last year and angering environmental groups who have been pressuring the state to ban the procedure known as fracking.
California halted all fracking permits last year after Gov. Gavin Newsom fired the state’s top oil and gas regulator after a report showed new wells increased 35% since Newsom took office.
In November, the California Geologic Energy Management Division asked for an independent, scientific review of its permitting process to make sure the state was meeting standards for public health, safety and environmental protection.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory completed that review, and Friday the state issued 24 permits to Aera Energy for wells in the North Belridge and South Belridge oil fields in Kern County near Bakersfield.
California still has 282 fracking permits awaiting review. State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk said the state now has a “more technically robust process” to review those applications, “including requiring additional technical disclosures to improve transparency.”
Read more at https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2020/04/03/california-issues-first-new-fracking-permits-since-july/
Tom Molanphy, SF WEEKLY
Nearly 98 percent of 2.4 million people surveyed told the government to leave our national monuments alone.
As soon as President Trump signed his executive order in April to review 27 national monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had his summer travel plans booked. Zinke would fish, kayak, and hike through our nation’s most beautiful landscapes to determine if they were better off being felled, drilled, or fracked. Six of the monuments set for review are in California: Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and San Gabriel Mountains. But the Feds are not touching these Golden State treasures without a California-sized fight.
“This has been nothing short of a cynical assault on our country’s shared value of protecting our public lands,” Victoria Brandon, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Redwoods chapter, tells SF Weekly.
Any reduction — or in some cases, elimination — of these nearby monuments would affect the Bay Area.
Read more at: Trump Rethinks America’s Best Idea – By tom-molanphy – August 10, 2017 – SF Weekly
Karl Mathiesen, THE GUARDIAN
For the first time ever, gas has usurped coal as the biggest producer of electricity in the US. Analysts say Obama administration’s proposed climate change rules are likely to establish gas as the predominant source of electricity as early as 2020.
Figures released by the US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that in April, natural gas produced 31.5 per cent of the country’s electricity and coal 30.2 per cent.
The interregnum will not last, with coal expected to average around 35.6 per cent of generation across 2015. But a decade ago, such an inversion was unthinkable. Americans got half their electricity from coal and just a fifth from natural gas. Now the two are neck and neck.
In April a glut of fracked gas from new shale regions drove the price of gas down to just $2.50/million Btu (British thermal unit, a widely-used measure of energy), a 35 per cent drop since February. This oversupply, combined with a routine seasonal shut down of coal plants, caused gas production to creep above coal for the first time.
“Power generators often use the spring months to take their plants offline for maintenance, especially coal plants. This maintenance period happened to coincide with a period of very low natural gas [prices],” said Tyler Hodge who works on the EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook.
Hodge said gas prices were expected to rise again in the coming months, and coal would reassert itself at the top of the production table when plants fire up again for the winter.
In 2012, gas prices fell even lower and production almost overtook coal, but coal returned to dominance. “So this [gas surge] is by no means irreversible,” said Michael Obeiter, a senior associate in the World Resources Institute’s climate programme. But he said the short term fluctuations in gas price were compounding an overall drift away from coal and the trend favoured “natural gas becoming the dominant source for electricity generation in the US in the coming years.”
Read more at: Gas surges ahead of coal in US power generation – 15 Jul 2015 – News from BusinessGreen
Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
California is proposing broad changes in the way it protects underground water sources from oil and gas operations, after finding 2,500 instances in which the state authorized oil and gas operations in protected water aquifers.
State oil and gas regulators on Monday released a plan they sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week for bringing the state back into compliance with federal safe-drinking water requirements.
An ongoing state and federal review has determined the state has repeatedly authorized oil-industry injection into aquifers that were supposed to be protected as current or potential sources of water for drinking and watering crops and livestock.
An Associated Press analysis found hundreds of the now-challenged state permits for oilfield injection into protected aquifers have been granted since 2011, despite growing EPA warnings about oilfield threats to the state’s underground water reserves.
"It’s a problem that needs our very close attention and an urgent path forward," Steve Bohlen, head of the state Department of Conservation’s oil and gas division, told reporters Monday.
Bohlen said 140 of those 2,553 injection wells were of primary concern to the state now, because they were actively injecting oil-field fluids into aquifers with especially designated good water quality.
State water officials currently are reviewing those 140 oil-field wells to see which are near water wells and to assess any contamination of water aquifers from the oil and gas operations, Bohlen said.
The U.S. EPA had given the state until Friday to detail how it would deal with current injection into protected water aquifers and stop future permitting of risky injection.
Read more via California pledges changes in protecting underground water | The Press Democrat.
Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Regulators in California, the country’s third-largest oil-producing state, have authorized oil companies to inject production fluids and waste into what are now federally protected aquifers more than 2,500 times, risking contamination of underground water supplies that could be used for drinking water or irrigation, state records show.
While some of the permits go back decades, an Associated Press analysis found that nearly half of those injection wells — 46 percent — were permitted or began injection in the last four years under Gov. Jerry Brown, who has pushed state oil and gas regulators to speed up the permitting process. And it happened despite warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2011 that state regulators were failing to do enough to shield groundwater reserves from the threat of oilfield pollution.
In California, "we need a big course correction. We need to get the system back in compliance," said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the EPA. "Californians expect their water is not being polluted by oil producers … This poses that very real danger."
The injections are convenient to oil companies because drilling brings up 13 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of petroleum. And one of the easiest disposal methods is simply to send that waste back underground.
The federal government is now demanding that state officials take immediate steps to find and deal with any contamination and end oil-industry operations in all aquifers set aside for families and farms.
Those water supplies are especially vital because California, the nation’s most populous state and its agricultural leader, is now entering the fourth year of a historic drought.
State officials acknowledge that regulators erred, citing confusion about the boundaries of aquifers and oil fields or long-standing state misinterpretations of federal water-safety requirements. The vast majority of the permits were granted after the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974.
Read more via California allowed oilfield dumping into drinking water (w/video) | The Press Democrat.
Dan Bacher, SAN DIEGO FREE PRESS
As the oil industry spent record amounts on lobbying in Sacramento and made record profits, documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity reveal that almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater were illegally dumped into Central California aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation water for farms.
The Center said the wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking (hydraulic fracturing) fluids and other pollutants.
The documents also reveal that Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates, contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater, in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.
The illegal dumping took place in a state where Big Oil is the most powerful corporate lobby and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization, alarming facts that the majority of the public and even many environmental activists are not aware of.
Read more via Massive Dumping of Fracking Wastewater into Aquifers Shows Big Oil’s Power in California.
Alicia Chang, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The federal government has approved three new fracking jobs off the shores of California as state coastal regulators voiced concerns about potential environmental impacts.
The work in the Santa Barbara Channel, site of a 1969 oil platform blowout, has not yet begun and it was not immediately clear when it would.
The disclosure Wednesday came as the California Coastal Commission attempts to exercise greater oversight of the contested practice known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep into rock formations to free oil.
The environmental impacts of fracking and other well stimulation techniques "are not well understood. To date, little data has been collected," said Alison Dettmer, a commission deputy director.
The agency launched an investigation into the extent of offshore fracking after The Associated Press last year documented at least a dozen instances of companies using the technique since the 1990s in federal waters.
via Feds approve more fracking off California coast.
Alicia Chang and Jason Dearen, USA TODAY
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The oil production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed.
In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach — some of the region’s most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions — oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
via Calif. finds more instances of offshore fracking.