California Moving Forward with the Implementation of SB 4

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Efforts are already underway to implement SB 4, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 20, 2013 (see September 23, 2013 post).  The California Department of Conservation (the “Department”) and its Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources have begun developing draft regulations months before the law’s effective date of January 1, 2014.  The process of developing draft regulations is expected to take several weeks with a likely release of the draft regulations by the end of the year.  SB 4 requires regulations to be developed by January 1, 2015, and the Department expects to meet this deadline. 

The regulations will address well integrity testing and monitoring, and other provisions of SB 4 including public disclosure, trade secrets, and interagency coordination.  With the draft regulations, the Department will prepare a rulemaking package, including a Notice of Proposed Action, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.  After publication of the Notice of Proposed Action and release of the draft regulations, the public may provide comments during the 45-day public comment period.

In addition to developing official draft regulations, the Department is moving forward with the independent scientific study of well stimulation techniques required by SB 4.  The study of well stimulation techniques will include hydraulic fracturing and acid matrix stimulation.  Further, the Department has begun the environmental review required under SB 4, and this will comply with the notice and comment requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act.

SB 4 requires development of regulations to protect groundwater, and the California State Water Resources Control Board is separately developing these regulations and standards for regional groundwater quality testing.