DOGGR Interim Regulations Provide Operators Some Guidance on SB 4 Compliance

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California’s Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) is moving full-steam ahead in its implementation of SB 4 with its most recent circulation of the SB 4 Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Regulations (“Interim Regulations”).  Granted emergency regulatory authority in Pub. Res. Code § 3161(b)(6) (also known as SB 4), DOGGR has issued its proposed regulations for the 2014 interim period for a five-day comment period (these emergency regulations will act as a stop-gap while DOGGR creates permanent regulations due on January 1, 2015).  The regulations were issued by DOGGR on December 11, 2013, but were not published on the California Office of Administrative Law’s website until December 19, 2013. It is the December 19th OAL publication that triggered the five-day comment period over the Christmas holiday.  The Interim Regulations will be final just in time for operators to start complying with the new provisions beginning on January 1, 2014.

Though the Interim Regulations are subject to change, there are a few notable provisions that are likely to become final at the end of this year.

  • DOGGR’s Interim Regulations more fully detail the timing and process by which the operator must inform DOGGR of its well stimulation activities.  For example, at least 10 days prior to the well stimulation treatment, the operator shall submit written notice, incorporating the Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Notice, directly to the email address NoticeWST@conservation.ca.gov.
  • Pub. Res. Code § 3161(b) indicated that operator compliance in 2014 only required observing Pub. Res. Code §§ 3160(b), (d)(1), (6)-(7), (g).  The DOGGR Interim Regulations require 72 hours’ notice prior to WST, mirroring Pub. Res. Code § 3160(d)(8), though not required by SB 4 during the interim period.
  • DOGGR’s proposed Permanent Regulations define “tenant” as “a person or entity possessing the right to occupy a legally recognized parcel, or portion thereof, by way of a valid written agreement.”  § 1783.2. Section 1783.2 of the DOGGR Interim Regulations defines tenant as “a person or entity possessing the right to occupy a legally recognized parcel, or portion therof.”
  • Section 1783.4 of DOGGR’s Interim Regulations focuses on the required operator-created groundwater monitoring plan. Section 1783.4 is quite detailed and includes requirements for 1) the types of chemicals required in baseline testing; 2) what should be included in the groundwater monitoring plan; and 3) how sampling will take place and how those results will be reported.

Though the implementation and finalization of SB 4-mandated regulations are not yet complete, the regulatory program has taken a more concrete form in the last few months, giving operators a clearer picture of their compliance requirements for 2014 and even 2015.  As mentioned above, public comments will be accepted by the OAL until December 30th. In addition, public meetings on the permanent regulations will begin on January 6, 2014 in Sacramento and Long Beach.  For more information on DOGGR deadlines and meetings, visit DOGGR’s website here.