California Dreaming: Regulator denies Aera Energy (Shell & ExxonMobil joint venture) permits to frac in two Kern County oil fields to “protect public health and safety and environmental quality”

California oil regulators deny new fracking permits by The Associated Press, July 9, 2021, The Herald Sun

California denied 21 oil drilling permits this week in the latest move toward ending fracking in a state that makes millions from the petroleum industry but is seeing widespread drought and more dangerous fire seasons linked to climate change.

State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk sent letters Thursday to Aera Energy denying permits to drill using hydraulic fracturing in two Kern County oil fields to “protect “public health and safety and environmental quality, including (the) reduction and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Aera Energy, a joint venture Shell and ExxonMobil, called the permit denials “disappointing though not surprising.”

“This is the latest decision attacking the oil and gas industry that is based solely on politics rather than sound data or science,” Aera spokeswoman Cindy Pollard said Friday, adding that the company was evaluating its legal options.

“Banning hydraulic fracturing will only put hard-working people of California out of work and threaten our energy supplies by making the state more dependent on foreign oil,” she said.

Fracking involves injecting high-pressure water deep underground to extract oil or gas from rock. Critics say it can pollute groundwater and contributes to climate change.

“In the face of the effects of the climate emergency, the risks to everyday Californians are too high to approve these permits,” Ntuk said Friday in emails to the Bakersfield Californian and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gov. Gavin Newsom applauded the move, his office said. In April, Newsom directed the state’s Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, to develop a plan to stop issuing new fracking permits by 2024 after a measure to ban fracking died in the Legislature.

Newsom also has ordered the California Air Resources Board to figure out how the state can end all oil production by 2045. Those decisions would make California the largest state to ban fracking and likely the first in the world to set a deadline for ending oil production.

Still Newsom, who is facing a recall election in September, is treading a risky path. California is the seventh-largest oil-producing state, with more than 60,000 active wells. CalGEM has approved 100 new oil well-drilling permits and a dozen new fracking permits this year, according to state records cited by the Chronicle.

The industry directly employed about 152,000 people and was responsible for $152.3 billion in economic output, according to a 2019 study commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association.

Even though oil production fell last year to its lowest level in state history, the industry retains plenty of political pull.

Lawmakers representing Kern County, an oil-rich area of the Central Valley, condemned the permit denials.

State Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, issued a news release Friday critical of Thursday’s permit denials.

“The attack on oil must end,” Grove said. “A California without oil is an implausible dream being pushed by progressive politicians. The governor should protect quality careers and vital tax funding while ensuring Californians have access to affordable and reliable energy.”

Conservation groups also weren’t entirely satisfied.

Newsom should “instruct his agency to deny all new oil and gas permits immediately,” said a statement from Alexandra Nagy, California director for the nonprofit group Food and Water Watch.

“Incremental steps are not enough to protect Californian communities and our climate, or save our scarce water resources from drilling operations that usurp them,” Nagy said in a statement.

Consumer Watchdog Applauds Oil Regulator’s Denial Of Aera Fracking Permits Press Release by Consumer Watchdog, Jul 09, 2021, prnewswire

LOS ANGELES, July 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The denial by the California Geologic Energy Management Division of 21 Aera Energy fracking permits is a win for public health and the environment, Consumer Watchdog said today.

“We applaud the Newsom Administration for finally using its discretion to deny Area destructive and dangerous fracking permits,” consumer advocate Liza Tucker said today. “This step is in concert with Governor Newsom’s goal of banning all fracking by 2024, though we believe that a ban across the board should be immediate.”

CalGEM took the step under the rubric of SB 4, the state’s first law regulating fracking that passed in 2014. In 2021, CalGem has issued a dozen fracking permits through March 8, the agency said. In 2020, CalGEM issued 83 fracking permits after an independent review by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but also denied 57 permit applications. The company receiving the most fracking permits was Aera Energy, followed by Chevron.

In 2019, CalGEM issued approximately 220 fracking permits. The number fell steadily after Newsom placed a temporary moratorium on fracking in 2019 after learning the number was skyrocketing on his watch.

Newsom had promised to ban fracking when he ran for office, but ultimately punted to the legislature to do that job. Lawmakers introduced legislation but Newsom never actively supported it and it died in its first committee. That bill would have also banned other dangerous forms of oil extraction and established a setback of 2,500 feet between new drilling and residents of communities living with oil drilling operations.

Fracking permit approvals and fracking itself are at their lowest level since SB 4 was enacted. The reasons include the suppression of demand for oil during the pandemic and an economic reckoning on Wall Street where banks were looking at a lot of oil company debt coming due and questioning oil as a smart investment.

“Denying fracking permits is one step in phasing out oil and gas drilling in California,” Tucker said. “But this is only one step in a managed transition away from oil and gas.

“We are waiting for CalGEM to issue a long overdue rule setting a boundary of at least 2,500 feet between vulnerable communities and oil drilling operations. Governor Newsom must deliver on the requests he made of CalGEM to issue such a rule to protect the public health and the environment and hold his Oil & Gas Supervisor accountable for repeatedly blowing deadlines. In the meantime, he should put a moratorium on any new drilling permits until the setback is established.”

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog

Newsom administration denies fracking permits – a California first for climate change by Kurtis Alexander, July 8, 2021, San Fransisco Chronicle

California state regulators have denied a string of applications to drill for oil using the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, a move Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office described Friday as the beginning of the end for fracking in the state.

The 21 fracking applications, which sought new operations in the oil-rich fields of Kern County, were turned down Thursday because of what the California Department of Conservation cited as a need to protect public health and address climate change.

Supporters of the move called it the first time the state has significantly limited fracking for health and climate purposes. Many have been pushing for such action for years.

Fracking is the process of using high-pressure water and often chemicals to unleash fossil fuel deposits deep within the earth. The practice has the potential to taint groundwater and mucks up the natural geology, though boosters say it’s an efficient way to get needed oil and natural gas out of existing wells. Fracking, of course, also means more fossil fuel development and more climate-warming pollution.

In the face of these concerns, Newsom, who faces a recall election Sept. 14, directed the state Department of Conservation’s oil regulator, known as CalGEM, in April to develop a plan to phase out new fracking by 2024. The governor’s office said the 21 applications denied this week represent a step in that effort.

While environmental groups applauded the recent action, they said Newsom should be doing a lot more if he seriously wants to improve public health and tackle climate change.

“We’re finally getting recognition that oil and gas is harmful to our health and our water and our climate, and that is a huge relief, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Alexandra Nagy, the California director for the watchdog group Food and Water Watch. “We’re still ramping up oil and gas permitting in California.”

This year alone, a dozen new fracking permits and 100 new oil well-drilling permits have been approved by CalGEM, state records show.

Newsom’s directive in April called for not only halting new fracking permits, which he pledged to do when he ran for office in 2018, but phasing out all oil extraction by 2045. Again, environmentalists appreciated the announcement, but said the timeline was too long and undermined any real commitment by the governor.

The 21 fracking applications that were denied this week were submitted by Aera Energy, a joint venture of of fossil fuel giants Shell and ExxonMobil based in Bakersfield. The company, one of the biggest recipients of fracking permits in California, sought development in two Kern County oil fields, North Belridge and South Belridge.

The state oil and gas supervisor at CalGEM said in an email to The Chronicle that the applications were denied because the agency is now legally required to consider the impact of fracking on public health and heat-trapping gas emissions.

“In the face of the effects of the climate emergency, the risks to everyday Californians are too high to approve these permits,” Uduak-Joe Ntuk said.

Aera Energy on Friday criticized the state’s action and said it was evaluating legal options to challenge it.

“This is the latest decision attacking the oil and gas industry that is based solely on politics rather than sound data or science,” spokeswoman Cindy Pollard said in an email to The Chronicle. “Scientific studies commissioned by the state conducted by some of the brightest minds in the world have deemed that hydraulic fracturing is safe.”

A post on the company’s website last month by Aera Energy President and CEO Erik Bartsch took issue with Newsom’s broader crackdown on oil.

“While I agree that climate change needs action, the administration’s intent to eliminate oil production in the state doesn’t confront the issue,” Bartsch said. “Why? Banning oil production in California does not end our state’s underlying need for fuel. Curbing California production only adds instability and cost.”

Newsom’s office on Friday praised the state’s response to climate change.

“This (denial) is one of many actions the administration is taking to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and respond to the climate emergency,” spokesperson for the governor’s office Erin Mellon said in a statement Friday. “The governor has been clear that we need to do more to combat the climate crisis and create a healthier future. He has also been clear that he does not see a role for fracking in that future.”

Refer also to:

2007: EnCana faces California gas price-fixing trial

2012: California Regulators Turn a Blind Eye to Fracking

2012: Mystery of fracking chemicals worries Californians

2012: California, All ‘Fracked Up’?

2012: Fracking is a bad and dangerous idea for California

2012: This post details the frac’ing of Alberta academia: Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources A California Perspective

2012: County sued over denial of oil drilling plan, Excelaron files $6.24 billion lawsuit against San Luis Obispo County California

2012: Fracking Study Shows California Dangers, Finds Richard Meehan Consulting; Ground Rupture in the Baldwin Hills

2013: California Fracking Rules Plan Stirs Trade Secrets Fight

2013: Fracking ban moves forward in California Legislature

2013: 285 homes in Carson, California contaminated by Shell, experts fear dangerously high levels of methane could cause a massive fireball

2014: Fracking moratorium urged by California lawmakers

2014: Drought Emergency Declared in California as Residents Urge Halt to Fracking

2014: California farmers ask governor for fracking moratorium to save water; Energy in Depth says fracing does not use millions of gallons of water

2014: Like seafood? Oil rigs dumping billion of gallons of toxic frac waste off California coast with OK from feds

2014: Arvin California: Expert Says Independent Air Sample of Evacuated Home Shows Relatively High Levels of Chemicals Linked to Hydraulic Fracturing

2014: Santa Cruz becomes first California county to ban fracking in unanimous 5-0 vote

2014: California Halts Injection of Fracking Waste, Warning it May Be Contaminating Aquifers

2014: Compton California hit with lawsuit by Western States Petroleum Association; Claims that the city doesn’t have the right to try and avoid frac pollution

2014: Federally commissioned report, California Council on Science and Technology: Fracking is at shallower depths than previously realized, “It turns out that they’re fracking right around the water table”

2014: Shell May Nix $90M Legal Settlement With Carson, California, Contaminated with Methane and Benzene, Because Gag Order Breached

2014: 5-0 Vote: Carson, California, slaps moratorium on oil drilling over fracking concerns

2500 feet protects only oily politcians, NGOs, regulators and oil and gas companies.

2015: Fracing’s long reach: New Study says Fracking Wells Could Pollute The Air Hundreds Of Miles Away

2015: “Abnormally dangerous and ultra hazardous activity.” Did TRC or Chevron’s fracing kill Robert David Taylor? What happened to California regulators’ vows to make steam injections safer? “Safer?” Why not make it “safe?”

2015: Water Raping Frackers Remain Jail Free. Another Alberta drought-stricken county declares agricultural disaster; California drought regulators fine farmers with historical water rights $1.5 Million for taking water

2015: In California, Big Oil finds water is its most prized commodity. Isn’t it everywhere in the world, where there is still some?

2015: Feed benzene, petroleum hydrocarbons, acetone, methylene chloride to your loved ones? In California almonds, artichokes, olives, garlic, broccoli, nectarines, canned tomatoes, celery, apricots, strawberries, cauliflower?

2015: California farmers rely on Chevron’s wastewater to irrigate. Some refuse: “I would rather let my trees die” than use Chevron’s water. Compare to the Chevron Tapes that allegedly show the company covering up contamination in Ecuador

2015: Hell Called … They want their ‘Salad Dressing’ Back: California farmers use oil firms’ waste to irrigate food. “There has been a gentleman’s agreement to promote deregulation”

Encana/Ovintiv dumping its waste on foodland at Rosebud, Alberta

2015: California: first ever, statewide, mandatory water restrictions “to save water in every way possible” except “the water-intensive industry of enhanced oil production or ‘fracking’”

2015: California now says 2,500 wells dumping frac waste into protected aquifers, up from 532 in February. Regulators order oil drillers including Chevron Corp. and Linn Energy LLC to halt operations at 12 injection wells (two were issued cease and desist orders) because they may taint groundwater suitable for drinking and irrigation

2015: Un-Frack CA: Largest anti-fracing demonstration in US history; More than 8,000 demand that California Governor Gerry Brown ban fracking

2015: California authorizes oilfield waste dumping into drinking water aquifers, Governor Jerry Brown, once environmental hero, refusing to ban fracking

2016: USGS Study: Oil drilling may have caused 1933 California 6.4M Long Beach earthquake that killed about 120 people and caused massive damages. “There may be no upper limit” to the size of earthquakes caused by the oil industry

2016: U.S. judge halts fracking plan for federal lands in California; Fracking’s Risks Are Too Obvious to Ignore

2016: Preliminary Hazard Assessment of Chemical Additives Used in Oil and Gas Fields that Reuse Their Produced Water for Agricultural Irrigation in The San Joaquin Valley of California. Technical Report

2016: California: Another new study proving oil and gas companies are fracing freshwater formations: “As many as one of every five oil and gas projects occurs in underground sources of fresh water”

2016: US EPA Takes Frac Deregulation to the Extreme: California and EPA Poised to Increase Oil and Gas Waste Injection into Protected Aquifers, Even as Need for Safe Groundwater Grows

2016: New Study: Toxicity of acidization fluids used in California oil exploration raise water contamination and public-safety concerns

2016: California: Carson introduces ban on fracking, acidizing of oil wells, and similar operations

2016: First research links Californian quakes to oil operations. Is that why it took so many decades for such research to be done?

2017: Encana named in 3 lawsuits by 2 California counties and 1 city claiming damages, that Encana and other companies deliberately presented misinformation about climate change and hindered action to address it

2017: California Farmer Blames Fracking Waste Water Injection For Water Quality Issues; Files Lawsuit Against Companies Involved While “Regulator” Enables the Pollution

2017: Bullies! Chevron, Aera Energy Sue to Block Monterey County, California’s Voter-Approved Frack Ban; Lakes Oil sues Victoria gov’t (Australia) for $2.7 billion in lost future possible profits because of frack ban

2017: Oil and Gas Lobby Fights California Regulators to Keep Injecting Drilling Wastewater into Protected Aquifers

2019: McKittrick, California: One day after Chevron announced it had finished cleaning up months-long, nearly 1.4 million-gallon leak in Cymric Oil field, another leak started with a second larger one appearing the next day spilling about 84,0000 gallons of oily fluid into a stream bed. Chevron appeals state’s $2.7M fine

2019: California regulators still allowing industry to inject toxic oilfield waste into drinking water aquifers, violating Safe Drinking Water Act; Companies will sue if ordered to stop. Alberta regulators break the law too, letting industry frac into drinking water aquifers, AER’s law violations even enabled by Canada’s top court

2019: “Newly revealed” steam injection disaster, this one by Chevron in California. About 800,000 gallons (~3 million liters) oil & water seeped into stream bed, off and on since May. CNRL seemed unable to stop their steam injection caused seep in Alberta, will Chevron be able to stop this one?

2021 06: Drought makes California cut water for 4,300 rights holders, some will be entirely without while oil companies continue to remove billions of gallons of water from the hydrogeological cycle via frac’ing, and inject toxic waste into protected aquifers.

2021 05: California regulator releases draft rule to ban frac’ing by 2024; For phase out of all “well stimulation” techniques including fracking, acidizing, gravel packing, steam flooding and steam injection. After how many aquifers permanently contaminated?

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