On July 27, 2018 the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) issued two notices of proposed rulemaking action applicable to oil and gas operations in the state.  DOGGR released updated underground injection control (“UIC”) regulations, as well as proposed regulations for idle well testing and management.

UIC Regulations

DOGGR supervises the drilling, operation, maintenance, and plugging and abandonment of onshore and offshore oil, gas, and geothermal wells.  Wells that inject fluid for the purposes of enhancing oil or gas recovery, re-pressuring oil or gas reservoirs, or disposing of wastewater and other byproducts associated with oil and gas production – referred to as injection wells or UIC wells – fall within DOGGR’s regulatory scope.

In California, DOGGR implements the federal Safe Drinking Water Act with respect to underground injection wells associated with oil and gas production under a Primacy Agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  As authorized under federal regulations and the Primacy Agreement, DOGGR’s UIC regulations essentially displace any comparable federal regulations that address underground injection associated with oil and gas production.  Therefore, the proposed UIC regulations aim to be consistent with federal regulations, and add definitions applicable to onshore well regulation to mirror the federal definitions.  The broad objectives of the proposed regulations are to establish:

  • Minimum standards for information needed to properly evaluate other wells within the area of review for injection projects, and more explicit standards for such evaluations.
  • Requirements for operators of certain injection wells to annually report information about treatment and additives to injection fluid.
  • Requirements for continuous injection pressure recording at all injection wells.
  • Requirements to minimize threats posed by surface expressions to health, safety, property, and the environment.
  • Requirements to automatically cease injection upon specified occurrences, thereby strengthening incentives for compliance and avoiding threats to health, safety, property, and the environment.
  • Requirements for operators of disposal injection wells to monitor and report on seismic activity.

DOGGR, Updated Underground Injection Control Regulations, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Action, OAL Notice File No: Z-2018-0717-06 (July 27, 2018), available at https://oal.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2018/07/30z-2018.pdf.

Idle Well Testing and Management

Idle wells are wells which are not in use for production, injection, or other purposes, but also have not been permanently sealed.  DOGGR has changed the definition of idle wells from five years of no productivity to two years of no productivity, in response to legislation.  Approximately 29,000 wells now fall into that category.  Idle wells are the focus of current regulation because wells that are idle for a prolonged period of time can deteriorate if not maintained, and then could become a potential public safety or environmental problem.  Since 1977, California has permanently sealed about 1,400 wells lacking a responsible operator at a cost of $29.5 million, according to DOGGR’s reports.

Assembly Bill (“AB”) 2729 mandates that DOGGR review, evaluate, and update its regulations pertaining to idle wells by June 1, 2018.  The current regulatory process will update the regulations to include idle well testing and management requirements that meet minimum requirements prescribed in AB 279.  Specifically, AB 2729 requires DOGGR to reduce the state’s inventory of idle wells to ensure protection of public health and the environment.

Public Comment – Closes September 13, 2018

The public comment period for both proposed regulations ends at 5:00 p.m. on September 13, 2018.  Comments may be submitted by email to UIC.Regulations@conservation.ca.gov, by Fax to (916) 324-0948, or by mail to:

ATTN: Updated UIC Regulations

OR ATTN: Idle Well Testing and Management Regulations

Department of Conservation

801 K Street, MS 24-02

Sacramento, CA 95814