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NEWS FLASH: Monterey County Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to send the letter explained below.


The Monterey County Board of Supervisors is being asked Tuesday to send a letter to state regulators asking them not to allow oil producers to sidestep state and local regulations intended to prevent contamination of potable water supplies in southern Monterey County.

The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, commonly known as DOGGER, is considering a proposal to expand exemptions for two of the San Ardo-area oilfields, which would allow additional use of injection techniques and underground disposal of wastewater from those processes.

Protect Monterey County, the organizers of the Measure Z anti-fracking initiative passed in November, has been lobbying the supervisors to enforce that measure and take other steps to protect the water and resist the oil industry’s attempt to pressure the county to disregard the letter and intent of the ballot measure.

Oil pump jacks at sunset sky background. Toned.

The letter being considered Tuesday was drafted for the county by the County Counsel’s Office, which earlier worked with the oil companies to delay implementation of Measure Z until the industry’s legal challenges have been adjudicated.

The matter is scheduled for sometime shortly after 10 p.m. at the supervisors’ chambers, 186 W. Alisal St. in Salinas.

The draft letter follows:

To Whom it May Concern:

The County of Monterey (“County”) submits these comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Aquifer Exemption (“Notice”) published by the California Department of Conversation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (“Division”) on January 11, 2017. According to the Notice, the Division is considering a proposal (“Proposal”) “to expand the current aquifer exemption designation for the Lombardi and Aurignac Sands of the Monterey Formation to the geologic limits of each unit in and around the San Ardo and McCool Ranch Oil Fields located about 2 miles southeast of the town of San Ardo, CA along Highway 101 at Alvarado Rd.” If the Division and other regulatory agencies approve the Proposal, the resulting exemption “would allow the State, in compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, to approve Class II injection into the identified area for enhanced oil recovery or for injection disposal of fluids associated with oil and gas production.”

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act and state law require the protection of underground sources of drinking water. Underground sources of drinking water are defined broadly in federal regulations to include any aquifer that supplies or contains a sufficient quantity of groundwater to supply a public water system and that has a total dissolved solids composition of less than 10,000 mg/l. (40 C.F.R. § 144.3). As the Division’s Statement of Basis concludes, the area subject to the Proposal meets this definition of an underground source of drinking water that is required to protection.

If certain criteria are met, underground sources of drinking water may be exempted from protection such that Class II injection into the underground source may be permitted. Among other criteria, the underground source must not currently serve as a source of drinking water or cannot now and will not in the future serve as a source of drinking water for specified reasons. (40 C.F.R. § 146.4). In addition, injection into the source must not affect the quality of water that is, or may reasonably be, used for any beneficial use. (Public Resources Code § 3131.)

The County requests that the Division carefully consider whether the Proposal satisfies the requirements for an exemption and whether this is an appropriate instance in which the Division should use its discretion to permit the disposal of fluids associated with oil and gas production into this particular underground source. Citizens of Monterey County have long expressed concern about the public health and safety issues associated with the injection of fluids into the County’s groundwater. In November of 2016, the voters in Monterey County approved Measure Z, an initiative that amends the County’s General Plan and related land use documents to create land use prohibitions associated with oil and gas land uses. Measure Z contains several findings that address the relationship between Class II injections and groundwater quality in the County, including, but not limited to, impacts to beneficial uses. These findings suggest that the criteria for an exemption from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s protection of this underground source of drinking water may not be warranted. The Division should carefully consider these findings as part of its assessment of the Proposal.

On behalf of its residents, the County is concerned that the Proposal may negatively impact public health and safety as expressed in Measure Z. The County believes that the Division should not approve the Proposal unless it can demonstrate to the residents of the County that these public health and safety impacts, including impacts to beneficial uses, will not occur.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Peggy Olsen February 6, 2017, 7:20 pm

    No fracking in Monterey County!!!!
    No extraction of fossil fuels if earth is to survive!!!

  • Roberta Myers February 6, 2017, 7:27 pm

    1. Is there a map of the “geologic limits of” the current production area? This sounds open ended and scary.
    2. What is Class II enhanced injection? Steam? Steam + chemicals? Something else?
    3. Would such permission expansion include toxic waste product reinjection into deep well with potential for aquifer contamination?

    • Eric Petersen February 7, 2017, 2:19 pm

      There was a very good map as a handout at the Supervisors meeting. I don’t know if it is on-line, but I’d guess there is a very good chance. McKee has been surprisingly supportive!

  • Dan Turner February 6, 2017, 8:16 pm

    I hope that the County Counsel is serious in his intent about this letter/proposal and not just cynically figuring that, since DOGGR will approve the oil companies’ request to continue to inject its toxic wastewater into our aquifer, why not pass this resolution so they can look good to us Measure Z’ers. I am not saying, or predicting, that even if the County Supes pass this sort of a resolution DOGGR will definitely ignore it and approve the oil companies’ request to continue and extend their pollution of our aquifer but I am saying that those oil companies will be furious if DOGGR doesn’t give them what they want and they will call up the Gov and ask WTF, exactly, is going on? They will remind him that they paid a lot of $ exactly for the purpose of preventing anything like that (a regulatory agency refusing to grant them whatever they request) from ever happening and reminding him that neither he, nor any other Dem in the state will ever see another dime from them again if a decision like that is allowed to stand. And, in our political system of legalized bribery called “campaign contributions”, that is a threat that the Gov would take seriously.

    • ryan February 6, 2017, 8:46 pm

      well, ya know, you can always object–see the protectmontereycounty.org site to find info on how to attend the DOGGR hearing in King City on Thursday, or, if you can’t attend, email the agency handing out the permits. never give in without a fight!

      • Dan Turner February 6, 2017, 9:34 pm

        I agree. I was just speculating on whether the County Counsel & the Supes were sincere in their opposition to DOGGR granting the oil companies another regulatory exemption, or not.

  • Jim darling February 6, 2017, 9:08 pm

    Oh to be 50 years younger when we were out there on construction sites, clear cutting sites and any place hurting the earth. Following Edward Abbey’s monkey wrench gang was all we wanted. And then 20 years ago, we became known as Eco-terrorists. Where are the rigs that need attention?!

  • Eric Petersen February 7, 2017, 2:20 pm

    They supported it!

  • bill leone February 11, 2017, 12:56 pm

    In my opinion, the Oil Industry, like the Cigarette Industry must be taxed into oblivion, because it is destroying the health of humans.