California Oil Wells Pumped Waste Into Aquifers

California State shuts 12 oil company wells that pumped waste into aquifers By David R. BakerMarch 3, 2015 Updated: March 3, 2015 8:54pm

California State shuts 12 oil company wells that pumped waste into aquifers
By David R. BakerMarch 3, 2015 Updated: March 3, 2015 8:54pm

Photo: Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

State shuts 12 oil company wells that pumped waste into aquifers

March 3, 2015 Updated: March 3, 2015 8:54pm

State officials have ordered oil companies to shut 12 more wells that injected oil-field wastewater into drinkable aquifers beneath California’s drought-stricken Central Valley, regulators reported Tuesday.The wells, used to dispose of water left over from oil production, are clustered in Kern County, the heart of the state’s petroleum industry. All have pumped water laced with oil and trace chemicals into aquifers that could be used for drinking or irrigation in the valley’s fields and orchards.

They are the result of three decades of bureaucratic confusion among state and federal regulators that allowed oil companies to drill hundreds of disposal wells into aquifers that were supposed to be protected by law. The problem was the subject of a Chronicle investigation in February.

Each of the 12 wells recently ordered closed was found to be injecting wastewater within a lateral mile and 500 vertical feet of a drinking-water well, prompting the shutdown order from the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

RELATED

File – This Jan. 16, 2015, file photo shows pumpjacks operating at the Kern River Oil Field in Bakersfield, Calif. 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, Feb. 9, 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. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, file) State pledges to stop oil firms from tainting aquifers Aletha, center, and Tom Frantz, right, and family friend Judy Reed, left, plant new almond trees as P.D., the dog, wanders by Jan. 29, 2015 on Frantz’s land in Shafter, Calif. Frantz is a fourth generation farmer who recently inherited his father’s land and currently has 4,000 almond trees. Frantz is concerned about the quality of his future water supply. State let oil companies taint drinkable water in Central Valley
‘A significant step’

“As we’ve said before, the protection of California’s groundwater resources — as well as public health — is paramount, particularly in this time of extreme drought,” said Steven Bohlen, the division’s supervisor. “Halting injection into these wells is a significant step toward that goal.”

So far, no drinking wells have been found to be contaminated by the underground wastewater injections.

“We intend to keep it that way,” Bohlen said.

The companies that own 10 of the injection wells voluntarily relinquished their well permits, Bohlen said. The division has filed cease-and-desist orders against the two companies that own the two other wells, demanding that injections stop within 24 hours. All of the companies will be required to test water quality in the affected aquifers and check for contamination in nearby drinking-water wells.

Eight other injection wells shut down by the state last year remain closed.

California produces more oil than any state other than Texas and North Dakota, and its petroleum reservoirs hold far more water than crude. Last year, oil companies extracted 205.3 million barrels of petroleum from the ground, along with 3.3 billion barrels of salty water, according to the division. Once it has been separated from the oil, most of the water is pumped back underground, sometimes into the same formation it came from, sometimes elsewhere — including usable aquifers.

A Chronicle review in February found 171 cases in which the division allowed oil companies to inject “produced water” into high-quality aquifers that were supposed to be protected under federal law. Another 253 injection wells went into aquifers whose water could have been used with more extensive treatment.

In addition, the division improperly issued permits for 2,021 other wells that are injecting water or steam into aquifers that also contain oil, usually as a way of squeezing more petroleum out of the ground.

The wells recently ordered closed are owned by California Resources Corp., Chevron U.S.A., E&B Natural Resources Management, Linn Operating Inc., Modus Inc. and Western States International Inc. Modus and Western States received cease-and-desist orders from the division.

“It’s encouraging to see them take immediate action when they see a threat,” said Andrew Grinberg, oil and gas program manager with the Clean Water Action environmental group. “Obviously we have concerns about all the wells that remain open.”

Series of foul-ups

The problem dates to 1982, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted the division authority to enforce the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in California’s oil fields. Through a tangled series of snafus, the two agencies developed different lists of aquifers that were considered suitable for wastewater disposal. As a result, the division started issuing injection permits for some aquifers that should have been protected, a problem that persisted undiscovered until 2011.

According to a report issued Tuesday by state environmental regulators, the federal EPA and the division adopted two agreements on which aquifers to use, one in 1982 and the other the following year. But the signature page of the second agreement, including the date, was photocopied from the first, adding to the confusion.

3 shut wells reopened

The problem first sprang into public view last year when the division abruptly shut down 11 injection wells in Kern County, fearing that they had breached aquifers already used for drinking or irrigation. The owners of three of those wells were later allowed to resume pumping after they proved to state officials that their wells had not accessed drinking-water aquifers after all.

The division is now examining all of the disputed injection wells and has warned oil companies that injections into potentially drinkable aquifers must stop by Oct. 15.

David R. Baker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: dbaker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @DavidBakerSF

David R. Baker
David R. Baker
Business Reporter

BBC Program on Fracking, featuring Professor Iain Stewart.

ReBlogged from Lack of Environment: http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/my-final-word-on-fracking/#respond

iain_stewart

Professor Iain Stewart

***

Letter written to Professor Stewart by Lack of Environment, author Martin Lack: http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/my-final-word-on-fracking/#respond

Herewith appended below is an email I sent today to Professor Iain Stewart (and copied to all those named in it).

Dear Professor Stewart,

I wanted to express my appreciation for the sensitive way in which you handled the issues in last night’s Horizon programme and for all the facts, figures and research findings it contained.  I was particularly interested in the evidence that shale gas has escaped from poorly-constructed wells in the USA.  Even if the UK can improve on the 6 to 7% failure rate in the USA, 100% success (i.e. no failures) is highly improbable.  Therefore, if fracking must be pursued (for whatever reason), this would make it imperative that the BGS establish baseline monitoring for methane as soon as possible. Would it be possible to get a copy of the transcript of the programme (or a list of References)?

Given my geological background and my MA in Environmental Politics, I have written a great deal about Fracking and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on my blog.  However, having started out very much opposed to both Fracking and CCS, my position has evolved as a consequence of ‘exchanges of views’ I had last year with Professor Peter Styles (Keele) and with Professor Robert Mair (Cambridge/Royal Society).  As a result of these exchanges – summarised or linked to here on my blog – I would agree with Peter that we probably need shale gas.  However, I believe Peter also agrees with me that we probably cannot afford it*.  I also understand that the remit of the Royal Society specifically excluded the long-term sustainability implications of pursuing fracking.

Nevertheless, this leaves me wondering whether you could encourage the BBC to do a second programme to address the consequences of humans burning all the Earth’s fossil fuels simply because they are there; and/or the need for ‘Western’ per capita energy consumption to be drastically reduced?  Having read David MacKay’s book, Sustainable Energy: Without The Hot Air, I think our biggest problem is that most people do not think holistically about the problems we face or, even worse, they seem to think concepts such as ‘ecological carrying capacity’ are just eco-Marxist propaganda.  However, although it would seem that CCS is now going to be essential in order to minimise anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), I think it is also the biggest obstacle to getting politicians to take decisive action to decarbonise our power generation systems.

Even if such a second Horizon programme is not likely, I remain very appreciative of all you have done – and are doing – to raise the profile of ACD as an Earth Science issue that should be of concern to all.

Kind regards, [etc]

ReBlogged from Lack of Environment: http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/my-final-word-on-fracking/#respond

* If fracking becomes the new energy boom, it is very hard to see how CCS will ever be able to be rolled-out on a global scale to keep pace with unabated CO2 emissions.

World Bank: What Climate Change Means for Africa, Asia and the Coastal Poor

***
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new climate report looks at likely impacts of present day, 2°C, and 4°C warming across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia.
  • It describes the risks to agriculture and livelihood security in Sub-Saharan Africa; the rise in sea-level, loss of coral reefs and devastation to coastal areas likely in South East Asia; and the fluctuating water resources in South Asia.
  • Turn Down the Heat warns that poor communities will be the most vulnerable to climate change.

As the coastal cities of Africa and Asia expand, many of their poorest residents are being pushed to the edges of livable land and into the most dangerous zones for climate change. Their informal settlements cling to riverbanks and cluster in low-lying areas with poor drainage, few public services, and no protection from storm surges, sea-level rise, and flooding.

These communities – the poor in coastal cities and on low-lying islands – are among the world’s most vulnerable to climate change and the least able to marshal the resources to adapt, a new report finds. They face a world where climate change will increasingly threaten the food supplies of Sub-Saharan Africa and the farm fields and water resources of South Asia and South East Asia within the next three decades, while extreme weather puts their homes and lives at risk.

A new scientific report commissioned by the World Bank and released on June 19 explores the risks to lives and livelihoods in these three highly vulnerable regions. Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience (Read it in IssuuScribdOpen Knowledge Repository) takes the climate discussion to the next level, building on a 2012 World Bank report that concluded from a global perspective that without a clear mitigation strategy and effort, the world is headed for average temperatures 4 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times by the end of this century.

Small number, big problem

Communities around the world are already feeling the impacts of climate change today, with the planet only 0.8 ºC warmer than in pre-industrial times. Many of us could experience the harsher impacts of a 2ºC warmer world within our lifetimes – 20 to 30 years from now – and  4ºC is likely by the end of the century without global action.

The report lays out what these temperature increases will look like, degree-by-degree, in each targeted region and the damage anticipated for agricultural production, coastal cities, and water resources.

“The scientists tell us that if the world warms by 2°C – warming which may be reached in 20 to 30 years – that will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could batter the slums even more and greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature.”

The report, based on scientific analysis by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, uses advanced computer simulations to paint the clearest picture of each region’s vulnerabilities. It describes the risks to agriculture and livelihood security in Sub-Saharan Africa; the rise in sea-level, loss of coral reefs and devastation to coastal areas likely in South East Asia; and the fluctuating water resources in South Asia that can lead to flooding in some areas and water scarcity in others, as well as affecting power supply.

“The second phase of this report truly reiterates our need to bring global attention to the tasks necessary to hold warming to 2ºC,” said Rachel Kyte, the Bank’s vice president for sustainable development. “Our ideas at the World Bank have already been put into practice as we move forward to assist those whose lives are particularly affected by extreme weather events.”

Open Quotes

The scientists tell us that if the world warms by 2°C – warming which may be reached in 20 to 30 years – that will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones. Close Quotes

Jim Yong Kim
President, World Bank Group

Sierra Club: Send a message, say no to fracking and Lone Pine Resources!

Re-blogged from the Sierra Club.

currents-0912

Take Action: Oppose Environmental RoadblocksTake Action: Tell U.S. Gas Company to Stop Trying to Frack Canada

When the people of Quebec spoke out against fracking, a dangerous and dirty drilling practice that can contaminate water and put entire communities at risk, the Quebec government listened and put a moratorium on the controversial practice. Now, a U.S. gas company, Lone Pine Resources, has threatened to sue Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). On top of that, the company is demanding $250 million in compensation for Quebec’s moratorium, which it says violates Lone Pine’s “right” to frack!

Take Action
Tell Lone Pine Resources to respect citizens’ rights to clean air and water and to drop its challenge.

Send a message and say no to fracking!.

English: Québec Province within Canada. Españo...

English: Québec Province within Canada. Español: Provincia de Quebec en Canadá. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A North American Free Trade Agreement...

English: A North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Logo. Español: Logotipo del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN). Français : Logo de Accord de libre-échange nord-américain (ALENA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sign California! Support Fracking Moratorium AB 1301 Petition. 350.org Bay Area

Please Join Food & Water Watch – Make a difference.

http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/

Biologist Sandra Steingraber, Others Get 15 Days in Jail for Civil Disobedience Against Gas Co.

Published on Thursday, April 18, 2013 by Common Dreams

Sandra Steingraber, Others Get 15 Days in Jail for Civil Disobedience Against Gas Co.

‘My Small, Non-Violent Act vs. Larger, More Violent, Toxic Trespass’ of Inergy Corporation

– Jon Queally, staff writer
Seneca Lake, Geneva, N.Y.

Seneca Lake, Geneva, N.Y. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inergy’s gas storage and transportation project in the Town of Reading,

right on Seneca Lake, threatens the water supply for 100,000 people.

The gas compression site they were blockading,

owned by Missouri-based Inergy corporation,

is part of an underground ‘gas storage operation’ near the region’s Seneca Lake, 

which provides drinking water for more than 100,000 area residents.

Opponents of the project, including those sentenced, say the project is a danger

to families, farms and the health of the local ecosystem.

In addition,

they contend, Inergy has continually undermined safety regulations

and blocked calls attempts to compell disclosure of vital

information about the nature of the project.

***

“My small, non-violent act of trespass,” said Steingraber to the crowd,

“is set against a larger, more violent one:

the trespass of hazardous chemicals into water and air

and thereby into our bodies. This is a form of toxic trespass.”

***

Opponents of the project, including those sentenced, say the project is a danger to families, farms and the health of the local ecosystem. In addition, they contend, Inergy has continually undermined safety regulations and blocked calls attempts to compell disclosure of vital information about the nature of the project.

English: Vineyards in the Seneca Lake AVA, vie...

English: Vineyards in the Seneca Lake AVA, viewed from the back porch of Wagner Vineyards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three upstate New York community members-cum-activists, charged with criminal trespass for blockading a gas company installation last month, were sentenced to 15 days in jail on Wednesday by a local judge in an upstate courthouse.

Among those sentenced was university biology professor and author Sandra Steingraber, who delivered an impassioned statement ahead of the sentencing explaining why she was compelled to civil disobedience and why she would refuse to pay the fine levied by the judge.

***

“My small, non-violent act of trespass,” said Steingraber to the crowd, “is set against a larger, more violent one: the trespass of hazardous chemicals into water and air and thereby into our bodies. This is a form of toxic trespass.”

***

Speaking with journalist Bill Moyers just one day prior to the sentencing, Steingraber explained why she and other community members felt in necessary to protest “plans to store millions of barrels of highly-pressurized liquid propane and butane — gases produced in the controversial process of fracking — in [local] salt caverns.”

Map of the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Also sentenced on Wednesday were massage therapist Melissa Chapman and local farm owner Michael Dineen.

The courtroom at sentencing, according to reports, was brimming over with more than 150 supporters and onlookers.

The gas compression site they were blockading, owned by Missouri-based Inergy corporation, is part of an underground ‘gas storage operation’ near the region’s Seneca Lake, which provides drinking water for more than 100,000 area residents.

Opponents of the project, including those sentenced, say the project is a danger to families, farms and the health of the local ecosystem. In addition, they contend, Inergy has continually undermined safety regulations and blocked calls attempts to compell disclosure of vital information about the nature of the project.

“I do not take this step lightly,” said Michael Dineen, reflecting on his own actions. “My wife and I have a small farm in Seneca County. We grow organic grains and maintain a large garden we use to feed our and our daughter’s families. Our garden is irrigated with lake water. I believe the Inergy gas storage complex will, at best, damage the community, and has the potential to do catastrophic damage. Important information has been kept from the public with the DEC’s cooperation. I do this to attempt to protect the community when all other means have failed. I blocked the entrance to the Inergy gas storage facility because I believe that the institutions who, by law and purpose, are required to protect the people and the environment from harm can no longer be relied on to do so.”

Local Channel 34 News explained the case’s background:

On March 18, Steingraber and 10 fellow residents of the Seneca Lake region, in a peaceful act of civil disobedience, blockaded a gas compressor station site run by Missouri-based Inergy, LLP, on Seneca Lake. They did so to demonstrate their opposition to Inergy’s planned heavy industrialization of the Finger Lakes region, renowned for its natural beauty, vineyards, and tourism- and agriculture-based economy.

Inergy’s gas storage and transportation project in the Town of Reading, right on Seneca Lake, threatens the water supply for 100,000 people.

All 11 protesters, along with a legal liaison, were arrested and charged with trespassing.

On April 17, Judge Raymond Berry of the Town of Reading imposed a fine of $375 for trespassing for Chipman, Dineen, and Steingraber, the three people appearing that evening. All three refused to pay (their statements are attached), and the judge ordered that each spend 15 days in jail.

Steingraber’s full sentencing statement follows:

“Good afternoon.  My name is Sandra Steingraber. I’m a biologist and a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College.  I’m 53 years old and the mother of an 11-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter.  I’m married to an art teacher, and we all live in the village of Trumansburg, which is about 15 miles to the northeast, as the crow flies.

On March 18, 2013, together with 11 other local residents, I stood in the driveway of this site, which is owned by the Kansas City-based energy company called Inergy and located on the west bank of Seneca Lake. In so doing, I broke the law and am charged with trespassing. Before my arrest, I and the others with whom I linked arms, temporarily blocked a truck carrying a drill head from going where it wanted to go.  This is my first experience with civil disobedience. Here is an explanation of my actions.

First, and most importantly, this act of civil disobedience is a last resort for me.  Prior to this, I and other community members have taken every legal avenue to raise the serious health, economic, and environmental concerns associated with the Inergy plant.  However, time and again, we’ve been deterred from participating in the decision-making process. For example, Inergy has declared the geological history of the salt caverns to be proprietary business information, so that much of the basic science on the structural integrity of the salt caverns is hidden from view. How can we offer informed public comments and raise scientific objection when we are denied this fundamental information?

Inergy has asked for fast-track FERC approval and that we fear that authorities are poised to rubber stamp these applications before the public has had a chance to review all the relevant information and the full impacts of these combined projects have been considered.

This act of civil disobedience was also undertaken to bring attention to the fact that this company has been out of compliance with the Clean Water Act every quarter for the last 12 quarters—which is as far back as the data go–exceeding its effluent discharge limit.  For this behavior, the company has been fined, not once, but twice, to the tune of over $30,000.

Effluent discharge means that the company dumps chemicals directly into Seneca Lake, which is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.

It is my belief that paying trivial fines does not excuse the crime of salting the lake.  And it’s because I have such a high respect for the rule of law that I will be choosing not to pay a fine for my act of trespassing and will instead will show responsibility by accepting a jail sentence.

Second, I seek by my actions to shine a spotlight on the dangerous practice of converting abandoned salt caverns into storage containers for highly pressurized hydrocarbon gases, namely propane and butane. Legal or not, this practice is tantamount to burying giant cigarette lighters in the earth.

This form of liquefied petroleum gas storage has a troubled safety record.  Leaks, explosions, and collapses have occurred in at least ten other places.  Additionally, the fleets of diesel trucks and the planned 60 ft. high flare stack—even absent calamitous accidents—will add hazardous air pollutants to our communities. Thus, my small, non-violent act of trespass is set against a larger, more violent one: the trespass of hazardous chemicals into water and air and thereby into our bodies.  This is a form of toxic trespass.

Lastly, I desire to bring attention to the rapid build-out of fracking infrastructure in New York.  Even as we are engaged in a statewide conversation about whether our governor should maintain or lift the current moratorium on shale gas extraction via horizontal fracking in New York, technology that further entrenches our dependency on shale gas—pipelines, storage, compressor stations, processing plants—is being rapidly deployed.  These infrastructure investments make fracking in New York State more likely and aid and abet fracking in other states, where it is associated with sickness and misery among people causes devastation to land, water, and air quality.

In a time of climate emergency, the transformation of the Finger Lakes into a massive transportation and storage hub for climate-destroying fossil fuel gases that have been fracked out shale in other states is the absolute wrong form of development.

I am a biologist, not a lawyer.  But when I looked up my crime on Wikipedia, here is what it said:

Trespass to land involves the wrongful interference with one’s possessory rights in [real] property. William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of Englandarticulated the common law principle… translating from Latin as “for whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell.” In modern times, courts have limited the right of absolute dominion over the subsurface. For instance, drilling a directional well that bottoms out beneath another’s property to access oil and gas reserves is trespass, but a subsurface invasion byhydraulic fracturing is not [emphasis added].

In other words, trespassing laws are unjust. They make a criminals of people who stand on a lakeshore purchased by an out-of-state fossil fuel company only interested in the hollowed out salt chambers that lie 1500 feet beneath the surface, while, at the same time, allowing drilling and fracking operations to tunnel freely under homes, farms, and aquifers, shatter our bedrock, and pump the shards full of toxic chemicals.

I broke the law by standing in a privately owned driveway.  Fossil fuel companies are not breaking the law by trespassing into the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases and so creating planetary crisis.  There are the disparities that I seek to communicate with my actions and, out of respect for the fidelity of law, with my willingness to accept a jail sentence rather than pay a fine.

As a working mother of two school-aged children, this is a decision I have reached after much discernment.”

_____________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
***

English: Seneca Lake at Seneca State Forest.

BILL MOYERS and Company present…

Full Show: The Toxic Assault on Our Children

Friend Nature: This video is a MUST WATCH, Sandra Steingraber very eloquently describes how chemicals have invaded the human body, to alter our genetic makeup, and change our bodies.

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