The State of California is implementing extensive reforms to its regulation and oversight of oil and gas production to increase protections for fresh water aquifers, public health and safety. Production from California’s oil fields due to the extensive history of production as well as the type of oil in the geologic formations, is largely dependent upon enhanced oil recovery techniques such as the injection of steam or water to induce production from oil reservoirs. Additionally, the state’s oil reserves naturally contain a substantial amount of briny water, called produced water, that comes up along with the oil through production wells. This water is disposed of after it is separated from the oil via injection wells. Enhanced oil recovery and produced water disposal are regulated by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources’ Underground Injection Control Program. Through public processes and legislative actions, the Department has been working over the course of several years to strengthen both the regulatory structure of the program and the staffing resources available to review oil production activity.
Pursuant to Senate Bill 83 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, Chapter 24, Statutes of 2015), the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency and the Secretary for Environmental Protection have appointed an independent review panel to evaluate the regulatory performance of the administration of the Program and make recommendations on how to improve its effectiveness by evaluating resource needs, statutory or regulatory changes, as well as program organization.
Following the requirements of the legislation, the panel is comprised of a diverse group of individuals with expertise and scientific background in geology, toxics, oil and gas industry, public health, and the environment, as well as representatives from agricultural and environmental justice perspectives.
Additionally, the SB 83 Panel is required to seek input from a broad range of stakeholders with a diverse range of interests affected by state policies and the general public.
What the Panel will do
The Panel’s discussions and process will be facilitated by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.