Oil giants sell thousands of California wells, raising worries about future liability in earthquake-prone state
California oil companies have long touted their production as a crucial part of California’s economy, even as they are also responsible for billions of dollars in environmental damage. Now the state’s regulators are considering more drastic measures, after a three-year review of oil and gas wells by the oil and gas drillers that has raised the specter of a potential lawsuit.
Newly developed oil and gas fields, including one in the Los Angeles area, appear to be producing at levels of thousands of barrels daily, with no end in sight. The state has estimated that at least 8,000 new wells are under development.
“This is not a matter of if, but when — whether we allow these wells to continue increasing production,” said California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development Commissioner Dr. Lisa Renier.
The state has begun reviewing a new industry standard that has been in place since 2006 requiring companies to report how many oil and gas wells they operate in California. And it may start requiring oil drillers to monitor earthquakes along the pipeline routes that allow the oil to flow through the state.
A review of the new standards from the state Bureau of Mines and Mineral Industries found that the oil companies they regulate are still operating thousands of oil and gas wells in the state. That is in defiance of the stricter, 2005, federal regulations set by the Bureau of Land Management.
The bureau last year approved the first new standards since the bureau was created in 1982, after a series of independent reviews and investigations by federal and environmental authorities. The rules require any gas field company or operator of oil field activity with at least one well in the state to provide detailed data on oil production, well performance, safety, environmental impacts and other factors.
The bureau did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday on the California Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s review of the state’s new regulations. The commission’s review is expected to be completed in January.
California’s regulators in the past have had a tough time getting oil drillers to comply with the 2005 federal regulations.
The latest report from the bureau found that the California Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Bureau of Mines and Mineral Industries are the only agencies with enforcement powers.
The bureau’s review of the regulations was delayed because the bureau said it would