On July 15, 2016, Judge George C. Hernandez, Jr. heard arguments and conducted a bench trial in the matter of Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club v California DOGGR in Alameda County Court. In an order signed on September 21, 2016, Judge Hernandez ruled that while DOGGR did not comply with Federal EPA standards when issuing permits for injection wells the lawsuit petitioners did not have standing to enforce the agreement between EPA and DOGGR. Judge Hernandez ruled that enforcement of any violations of injecting fracking waste into non-exempt underground aquifers it would be up to EPA not private parties to enforce and denied CBD and the Sierra Club’s request for emergency action. (click here to read entire ruling from Hon. George C. Hernandez, Jr.)
Two prominent environmental groups are now asking a court to order the State of California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to halt the practice "waste water re-injection." It's when the fracing industry injects billions of gallons of waste water into underground aquifers around the state.
The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club in Alameda County Superior Court.
The practice was first exposed by NBC Bay Area last year, when the Investigative Unit discovered that DOGGR permitted oil and gas companies to re-inject billions of gallons of waste water into clean into underground aquifers. Those aquifers were supposed to be protected by the government because they were clean and could potentially be tapped for agricultural use or even drinking water.
California’s chief deputy director at the Department of Conservation admitted to the Investigative Unit that “mistakes were made” when state officials allowed the reinjection.
At first, officials identified eight wells where wastewater was re-injected into clean aquifers.
But in early 2015, California’s Environmental Protection Agency admitted that state officials had allowed re-injection into potentially thousands of wells, some of which are continuing to pollute clean aquifers at the present time..
After NBC Bay Area’s stories aired, DOGGR announced it would implement “emergency plans” to prevent the dumping. But those plans won’t take effect until the year 2017.
But environmentalists say that’s not fast enough, especially given the current record drought.
So the environmental groups sued in Alameda County, asking the court to order an immediate halt to the waste water re-injection process.
So far there has been no response from DOGGR to the lawsuit, and no word on when the court might rule.
After this story aired, The Western States Petroleum Association issued a written statement which reads, in part,
“The State of California and U.S Environmental Protection Agency have collaborated on a comprehensive work plan for underground injection that includes an aggressive schedule for review of injection wells and corrective action where warranted....This lawsuit is an attempt to thwart that regulatory process.”