California Department of Conservation ("DOC") Proposes Emergency Rulemaking for SB 4 Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Regulations

Stoel Rives LLP

On December 11, 2013, the DOC proposed an emergency rulemaking to implement interim provisions of SB 4.  Public Resources Code section 3161, part of SB 4, provides for an interim grace period from the permitting requirement of SB 4 until SB 4’s regulations are effective.  Section 3161 also provides for DOC’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) to allow well stimulation while SB 4’s permanent regulations are under development as long as the operator of the well stimulation treatment certifies compliance with the requirements set out in SB 4.

This emergency rulemaking is necessary because of the need for interpretive regulations related to the requirements for the interim certificate of compliance, clarification of the definition of “well stimulation treatment,” and establishment of thresholds to determine which well stimulation operations are subject to the new SB 4 requirements.  Without emergency regulations, the requirements for the interim certificate of compliance would go into effect on January 1, 2014 without specific parameters.         

The proposed interim regulations set out procedures and requirements for operators, giving written notice of well stimulation treatment and providing certifications of compliance. They also provide definitions, including clarification of “well stimulation treatment.”  Further, the interim regulations implement SB 4’s neighbor notification requirement, water well testing requirements, public disclosure requirements, and general requirements for well stimulation. The interim regulations also set out the acid concentration threshold at which the regulations apply and the distinctions between well stimulation treatment requirements and underground injection requirements.

According to the DOC, these interim regulations will establish clear procedures and timeframes for the regulated industry and the public. The DOC will submit the proposed interim regulations to the Office of Administrative Law on December 19, 2013 with an effective date of January 1, 2014.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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