On November 11, 2016, the Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper jointly filed suit against several federal agencies including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (jointly “Agencies”) in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  The lawsuit alleges violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).  At the heart of their lawsuit, EDC and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (jointly “EDC”) claim that the Agencies violated NEPA when they issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) decision approving the Agencies’ Programmatic Environmental Assessment of the Use of Well Stimulation Treatments on the Southern California Outer Continental Shelf (the “PEA”).
Continue Reading Environmental Groups Sue Federal Agencies Again in Unending Legal Battle Over Offshore Oil Development

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

According to several news organizations, Governor Brown has announced plans to form a new panel to review the recent well stimulation study conducted by the California Council on Science and Technology (“CCST”).

The study found that while there is little evidence that hydraulic fracturing is directly linked to widespread negative health and environmental impacts, additional

The California Council on Science & Technology (“CCST”) recently released its Independent Study of well stimulation in California. The report was prepared for the California Natural Resources Agency in response to Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”).

The Study notes the following key points:

  • Hydraulic fracturing in California does not use a lot of fresh water compared to other states and other human uses.
  • Available evidence indicates that impacts caused directly by hydraulic fracturing or acid stimulation or by activities directly supporting these operations appear small.
  • No recorded negative impacts from hydraulic fracturing chemical use in California were found; however, governmental reporting should be expanded.
  • Additives used in hydraulic fracturing and acid stimulation should be evaluated to reduce any potential adverse impacts.
  • The potential impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing are similar to oil development practices generally, even without the use of hydraulic fracturing.
  • There is a potential for additives used in hydraulic fracturing and acid stimulation to react with other elements underground causing the chemistry to change over time.
  • Fluid injected in the process of hydraulic fracturing will not likely cause earthquakes of concern.
  • Oil produced in California using hydraulic fracturing emits less greenhouse gas per barrel than the average barrel imported to California.

Continue Reading Independent Study on California Fracking Released

On July 14, a complaint was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court against Governor Brown and the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) Supervisor Steve Bohlen.  The lawsuit claims Governor Brown and Supervisor Bohlen have adopted regulations that result in racially disparate impacts from well stimulation on minority students.

State regulators recently implemented

Yesterday, July 7, the State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) adopted new requirements (“Model Criteria”) for groundwater monitoring in areas where oil and gas stimulation activities occur, such as hydraulic fracturing. The Water Board was required to develop these requirements pursuant to Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”).

The requirements cover a wide

The State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) has recently released recommendations from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (“LLNL”) on Model Criteria for Groundwater Monitoring. Pursuant to Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”), the Water Board is required to develop regulations for sampling, testing, and monitoring groundwater during hydraulic fracturing operations. The bill requires groundwater monitoring at scales from single well monitoring to regional monitoring.

The recommendations are designed to assist the Water Board in taking a scientifically credible approach in developing groundwater monitoring regulations. The authors acknowledge the immense challenge of developing a set of regulations to govern well stimulation in California due to the unique and dynamic nature of each oil field.

The report recommends a tiered approach to groundwater monitoring where higher quality water is monitored more intensively than lower quality water. The monitoring would be conducted through one upgradient and two downgradient wells within a one-half to one-mile radius of the stimulated oil well.
Continue Reading State Water Board Receives Groundwater Monitoring Recommendations from Experts

The clamor over hydraulic fracturing continued Wednesday as environmental activists filed another lawsuit to limit oil and gas development in California.  The lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres ForestWatch, challenges a plan to open portions of federal land in California to oil and gas operations.

The groups claim that the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) did not consider the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing when it approved a Resource Management Plan, which could potentially open a large area of federal land in the state’s most oil-rich regions to leasing.  The plan found that “overall, in California, for industry practice of today, the direct environmental impacts of well stimulation practice appear to be relatively limited.”

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued oil leases in Monterey and Fresno counties without considering the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing.  This ruling has led to a de facto moratorium on new leasing in California on federal lands.
Continue Reading Yet Another Lawsuit Seeking to Limit California Oil Development

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) held a Public Workshop regarding the proposed Draft Model Criteria for Groundwater Monitoring (“Model Criteria”). In this meeting, the Water Board heard comments from stakeholders who voiced their support or concern regarding the Model Criteria.

Dr. Steven Bohlen, the State Oil & Gas Supervisor, on behalf of the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) provided the Water Board with a variety of statistics regarding well stimulation operations that have occurred since DOGGR’s Interim Regulations went into effect on January 1, 2014. Dr. Bohlen reported that over 1,500 Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Notices have been received by DOGGR since January 1, 2014. Additionally, 809 well stimulation operations have been conducted and 22 monitoring plans have been approved. Furthermore, about 200 acre feet of water has been used for well stimulation operations.Continue Reading Industry and Environmental Groups Make Pitch to Water Board Regarding Draft Model Criteria for Groundwater Monitoring