California Department of Conservation Publishes Notice of Proposed Regulations for Well Stimulation

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On November 15, 2013, the California Department of Conservation (“DOC”) published the notice of proposed rulemaking action regarding draft regulations for well stimulation.  These proposed regulations will implement SB 4, which Governor Brown on September 20, 2013, and will become effective on January 1, 2014.  

The draft regulations supplement the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) existing oil and gas regulations with regulations addressing well stimulation.  The proposed regulations set out requirements regarding the integrity of wells, well casings, and the isolation of oil and gas formations during and after well stimulation treatments and also require full disclosure of well stimulation fluids.  Further, the draft regulations address a wide variety of issues, including: well stimulation permits, public disclosure, notification, testing of water wells, monitoring during and following well stimulation treatments, and storage and handling of well stimulation fluids.

The written comment period for the draft regulations ends at 5:00 p.m. on January 14, 2014.

In addition to the notice of proposed rulemaking action, the DOC also published a notice of preparation of an environmental impact report (“EIR”), which is another SB 4 requirement.  The EIR is intended to evaluate potential environmental impacts related to oil and gas well stimulation treatments in California.  The proposed scope of the EIR will address the effects that result from existing well stimulation of conventional oil and gas reservoirs in addition to potential well stimulation of non-conventional oil and gas resources.  Further, the EIR will analyze alternatives to these treatments and identify mitigation measures in response to potential impacts. The broad scope of the EIR is very unusual in that the Legislature has required an EIR review on a process that is state-wide, as opposed to a particular “project,” which is a hallmark of the California Environmental Quality Act, the law under which the environmental review is to be modeled.