Department of Conservation

On February 12, 2018, the California Department of Conservation (“DOC”) issued a public notice announcing revisions to the text of the proposed regulations in the rulemaking for California Underground Gas Storage Projects.  This rulemaking follows a saga of rulemakings for underground gas storage projects in the state – both emergency and general rulemakings – which all began in early 2016.  The rulemakings were spurred by the underground gas storage leak at the Aliso Canyon facility in southern California, which was discovered on October 23, 2015 and continued leaking until February 2016.
Continue Reading California Issues Revised Proposed Underground Gas Storage Regulations

Stoel Rives’ Oil & Gas Team has been monitoring bills introduced by California legislators since the beginning of the 2017-2018 Legislative Session.  June 2, 2017 was the deadline by which the Legislature was required to pass bills out of the house of origin. Failing to meet that deadline does not automatically prevent a bill from proceeding through the legislative process; however, such failure will prevent the bill from being considered by the full legislature or the Governor during the first half of the Legislative Session.  Below is a list of bills, summarized pursuant to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, that our team has been following and will continue to monitor as the legislative session proceeds.  This is an update to our February 23 post.

Please also see our Renewable + Law post summarizing bills related to other energy topics here.

AB 476 (Gipson, D): Vehicular air pollution.

Status: Two-year bill; last amended April 17, 2017.

Existing law imposes various limitations on emissions of air contaminants for the control of air pollution from vehicular and non-vehicular sources and generally designates CARB as the state agency with the primary responsibility for the control of vehicular air pollution. Existing law further defines a heavy-duty vehicle as having a manufacturer’s maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 6,001 or more pounds, a light-duty vehicle as having a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of under 6,001 pounds, and a medium-duty vehicle as a heavy-duty vehicle having a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating under a limit established by the state board. AB 476 instead would define a heavy-duty vehicle as having a manufacturer’s maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds.Continue Reading Update: Oil & Gas Related Bills Introduced in the 2017-2018 Legislative Session

On January 19, 2017, three oil industry trade groups filed suit against the California Department of Conservation and the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) (jointly “Department”) in Kern County Superior Court alleging that DOGGR’s oil field wastewater injection regulations violate operators’ constitutional rights.  Western States Petroleum Association, California Independent Petroleum Association, and Independent Oil Producers Agency (collectively “Plaintiffs”) seek “declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the arbitrary and unlawful shut-in of potentially thousands of Class II injection wells in violation of Plaintiffs’ members’ due process rights.”  Complaint at 1.
Continue Reading Oil Industry Caught in “Catch-22” with New Wastewater Injection Approval Requirements; Files Suit Against California Agencies

On January 15, 2016, the Department of Conservation gave notice of an interim rulemaking package to regulate underground natural gas storage facilities.  The proposed rulemaking comes in response to the continuing gas leak at an underground gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon.

Governor Brown called for the new regulations in his emergency proclamation, which

On October 8, the California Department of Conservation (“DOC”) released a Renewal Plan for Oil and Gas Regulation (“Renewal Plan”) to revamp its regulatory program.  The goal of the Renewal Plan is to continue the DOC’s focus on environmental protection and public health, and it will shape the DOC’s regulatory decisions for the next two years.

The Renewal Plan contains four objectives: (1) regulatory overhaul, (2) new regulations for “new realities,” (3) modernization of data management, and (4) ensuring a high-quality workforce.  California’s Underground Injection Control (“UIC”) program is a key focus, and the Renewal Plan calls for a review of aquifer exemptions.  Exempt aquifers are those that are permitted to receive injection of Class II fluids (fluids associated with the production of oil and gas).  The review of exempt aquifers will ensure that Class II fluids are not being injected into potential drinking water sources.
Continue Reading Bunn’s “Renewal Plan” will Overhaul Oil & Gas Regulation in California Starting Next Year

Today, July 30, the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”) filed a complaint in Sacramento County Superior Court against the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”). CBD claims, among other things, that DOGGR failed to comply with Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”) by releasing its Final EIR regarding oil and gas well stimulation treatment prior to the release of a state-mandated Independent Study.

This lawsuit strikes us as more of a shout out to the Legislature and the Governor to highlight CBD’s ongoing disappointment with SB 4, more than anything else. CBD mistakenly construes SB 4 to require DOGGR to analyze and incorporate the Independent Study’s findings into its Final EIR, when no such requirement is found in the law. Indeed, by its terms, SB 4 only requires DOGGR to comply with the following requirements relating to the EIR:

  • The EIR shall be certified by the division as the lead agency, no later than July 1, 2015.
  • The EIR shall address the issue of activities that may be conducted as defined in Section 3157 and that may occur at oil wells in the state existing prior to, and after, the effective date of this section.
  • The EIR shall not conflict with an EIR conducted by a local lead agency that is certified on or before July 1, 2015.

(Pub. Resources Code, § 3161.) The Legislature, not the Sacramento County Superior Court, is the proper body to which this additional request should be made, as there is currently no law mandating it.
Continue Reading Activists ask Court to Scrap EIR and Stop Fracking

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown appointed David Bunn, a former fish and game official and U.C. Davis academic, to lead the California Department of Conservation. The appointment comes after the departure of Director Mark Nechodom, who resigned earlier this month.

As director of the Department of Conservation, Bunn will inherit an office that administers a

On Thursday, April 2, the California Department of Conservation (“DOC”) published a notice of proposed emergency rulemaking for the state’s Class II Underground Injection Control (“UIC”) program.  The purpose of the rulemaking is set a schedule to eliminate injection into non-exempt aquifers so as to ensure that California oil and gas activities are in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (“SDWA”).  The SDWA prohibits injection of Class II wells — those that dispose of waste water from oil and gas production — into non-exempt aquifers.  The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”), within the DOC, first proposed this rulemaking in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in February 2015.  In March, twelve wells were shut-in in order to achieve this goal.
Continue Reading California Proposes Emergency Rules for Oil & Gas Waste Water Injection Wells as Precautionary Measure

February 27, 2015 was the deadline for lawmakers to introduce legislation to the 2015-2016 California Legislative Session and several bills related to oil and gas activities were introduced.  Below is a summary of those bills. Stoel Rives is monitoring these bills and will provide periodic updates as the bills move through the legislative process.

SENATE BILLS

SB-13 (Pavley):  Groundwater

This bill would specify that the State Water Resources Control Board is authorized to designate a high- or medium-priority basin as a probationary basin. This bill would provide a local agency or groundwater sustainability agency 90 or 180 days, as prescribed, to remedy certain deficiencies that caused the board to designate the basin as a probationary basin. This bill would authorize the State Water Resources Control Board to develop an interim plan for certain probationary basins one year after the designation of the basin as a probationary basin.Continue Reading Status of Oil and Gas-related Bills Proposed in California’s 2015-2016 Legislative Session

On Friday, July 18, 2014, the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) announced that it will review California’s Underground Injection Control (“UIC”) Program to ensure compliance with the requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (“the Act”).  DOGGR has primary authority under the Act to regulate underground injection wells, granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”).  DOGGR will conduct the review in conjunction with the USEPA, and expects the review to be completed in 12-18 months.

Originally enacted in 1974 and amended in 1996, the Act aims “to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply.”  (EPA, Safe Drinking Water Act).  The Act is applicable to well stimulation regulations because it has authority over ground water wells, excluding private wells that serve fewer than 25 people.  Protections are designed to prevent oil and gas production wastewater from being injected into drinking water aquifers.Continue Reading DOGGR to Review Well Stimulation Regulations to Ensure Compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act

At last, the new Supervisor of the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) has been announced.  Steven Bohlen, currently Program Director at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will replace recently-retired former Supervisor Tim Kustic.  Mr. Bohlen’s background spans numerous academic, teaching, and research positions, including stints at Texas