The State Water Resources Control Board is hosting a public meeting to begin the development of a model criteria for groundwater monitoring related to oil and gas wells subject to well stimulation treatments, as specified in Senate Bill 4 (Pavley, Statutes of 2013).
The meeting is planned for Thursday, Aug. 7, in the Kern County supervisors’ chambers, in Bakersfield,  from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m..

Senate Bill 4 requires the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to adopt regulations specific to well stimulation. However, final regulations will not be in place until 2015. The water boards are also required to develop model criteria for groundwater monitoring.

Starting January 2014, DOGGR interim well stimulation regulations were put in place to address immediate requirements for well operators, including groundwater monitoring. The “Interim Well Stimulation Regulations” and related material regarding SB 4 are available on the DOGGR Well Stimulation webpage.

Well Operator Groundwater Monitoring Plans and Requests for Exemption from Groundwater Monitoring

DOGGR interim well stimulation regulations require well operators to submit a groundwater monitoring plan as part of their well stimulation treatment notices. A well operator may alternatively request an exemption from groundwater monitoring if the absence of protected water can be demonstrated. If protected water is absent, the Water Boards will issue a letter of written concurrence to the well operator. The written concurrence letter is to be submitted by the well operator in their well stimulation treatment notice. Supporting documentation provided by the well operators to the water boards is available on the DOGGR Well Stimulation webpage.

Property Owner Requested Water Sampling and Designated Contractors

SB 4 requires copies of DOGGR-approved well stimulation treatment permits and information on available water sampling and testing to be provided to every owner or tenant whose property line location is:

  1. Located within 1,500 feet of the well that is to undergo well stimulation treatment, or
  2. Within 500 feet from the horizontal projection of all subsurface portions of the designated well to the surface.

In accordance with Public Resources Code, the notified party may request water quality sampling and testing on any water well or surface water suitable for drinking or irrigation, paid for by the owner/operator of the oil or gas well. Water samples can be collected for baseline measurements prior to the start of the well stimulation treatment (Pub. Resources Code, § 3160, subd. (d)(7)(A)).

Follow-up measurements (after well treatment stimulation) shall be on the same schedule as any pressure testing of the treated well’s casing. If the operator does not conduct a pressure test on the treated well casing following well stimulation treatment, a follow-up water sample shall be made available at least once. This sampling and testing program is subject to audit and review by the State Water Board.

All water quality data collected as part of the property owner requested water sampling will be submitted to the State Water Board in an electronic format that is compatible with the State Water Board GeoTracker information system. Information regarding electronic submittal of water quality data is available on the Oil and Gas Groundwater Monitoring – Electronic Submittal Information webpage.

The State Water Board is required to designate one or more qualified independent third-party contractors to perform property owner requested water quality sampling and testing (Pub. Resources Code, § 3160, subd. (d)(7)(B)).

Senate Bill 4 addresses and resolves the concerns of extremist so-called environmentalist groups to ban petroleum production in California based on un-scientific fear tactics who claim that gas/oil production should be banned in order to ‘Save Our Water’. Both state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies endorse and support safe, responsible petroleum extraction operations including Hydraulic Fracturing and Cyclic Steam recovery in order to improve domestic energy production, create jobs, improve tax revenues and diversify economic development in California and the United States.