Our state oil and gas regulators have expanded a Contra Costa oil drilling operation within the very 3,200′ setback distance they’re proposing for new oil drilling.
CalGEM, the California Geologic Energy Management agency, has approved a Class II injection well across from the active oil drilling site on Deer Valley Road in unincorporated Antioch, a half mile from Dozier-Libbey High School, the Kaiser Antioch Medical Center, and pending senior housing. These Kaiser patients, high school youth, and elders are all what CalGEM calls “sensitive receptors,” the people who are most adversely impacted by toxic emissions from oil and gas wells.
No public review is possible, as CalGEM issued a CEQA exemption for the project that involves repurposing a 50 year-old plugged and abandoned dry gas well for its brand new use as an injection well for “produced water.” This is also known as waste water, and it’s what comes up with the oil during extraction, which is happening several hundred yards away. The CEQA exemption designates this resurrection of a plugged and abandoned well—first permitted in 1972—as part of an “ongoing project,” the active drilling just across the road—permitted in 2019.
This is a violation of CEQA requirements and is a terrible precedent. There are 273 plugged and abandoned zombie wells all over east Contra Costa that could be similarly reactivated without public review. Because of the wider and dangerous consequences of this, Sunflower Alliance is filing a lawsuit against CalGEM.
The complaint deals specifically with the state’s issuing an exemption under the “ongoing project” designation, but going forward we will also have to deal with a circa-1982 Aquifer Exemption that is in place for the site. Injecting waste water is frequently used as a method of enhanced oil recovery and is known to threaten groundwater integrity, among other serious problems, and it demands much closer evaluation than CalGEM is giving it.
Read Capital and Main’s reporting on the lawsuit and its broader implications here.
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