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The Department of Conservation provides services and information that promote environmental health, economic vitality, informed land-use decisions and sound management of our state's natural resources.
Well Stimulation: Revised Proposed Regulations Released
On June 13, 2014 the California Department of Conservation (DOC) sent out public notice of the latest version of the proposed regulations for the use of well stimulation in oil and gas production. The public notice marked the beginning of a now-complete public comment period. The Department conducted five public hearings around the state to receive comments. It is now reviewing the comments received at the hearings as well as those submitted directly to the Department in writing. If substantial changes are made to the regulations, there will be a third, abbreviated opportunity for public comment. Documents associated with the rulemaking process can be found here. Readopted SB 4 Interim Well Stimulation Regulations Now in Effect
“Well stimulation” practices are defined by Senate Bill 4 (Pavley, Ch 313, Stats of 2013) and include hydraulic fracturing and other treatments that increase the flow of oil and natural gas to wells and then to the surface for recovery. The regulations, which are to go into effect on July 1, 2015, are designed to protect health, safety, and the environment, and supplement existing strong well construction standards. They address a comprehensive list of issues, including testing, monitoring, public notice, and permitting. The text of the revised proposed regulations can be found here.
The proposed regulations are the product of a dozen public meetings to both solicit ideas on what the regulations ought to include and to receive comments on an unofficial "discussion draft" of regulations; extensive research of other states' regulations and of scientific studies; input from other regulatory agencies, the environmental community, and the oil and gas industry; and review of more than 150,000 public comments.
On June 27, 2014, a readoption of the SB 4 interim well stimulation treatment regulations was filed with the Secretary of State. The interim regulations, which first went into effect on January 1, 2014, were adopted by emergency rulemaking to ensure that essential implementing regulations were in effect when Senate Bill 4 became effective. The final text of the readopted SB 4 interim well stimulation treatment regulations and other rulemaking documents can be found here.
DOC's implementation of SB 4 also includes:
- Development of an environmental impact report (EIR) by July 1, 2015. Find out more about the EIR development here.
- Web-based posting of public notices about well stimulation permits applied for and issued by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. Find current well stimulation certifications here.
Water Usage in Hydraulic Fracturing in California
Based on voluntary reporting to the FracFocus Web site, the Department of Conservation estimates that about 300 acre-feet of water were used for hydraulic fracturing operations in California during 2013. For the sake of comparison, the average family of four uses about an acre foot of water per year. In the eastern United States, millions of gallons of water are injected under pressure during hydraulic fracturing, a process that may take days or weeks. In California, much less water is used in each operation and the period of pressuring the reservoir rock is much shorter. Part of the difference between California and other states is the geology. California's folded and faulted geology means that hydraulic fracturing activity tends to occur in vertical wells with a smaller number of stages, typically completed in a few hours. Other states' geology tends to be less folded and faulted, allowing longer-distance, multi-stage horizontal well completions that consume substantially more water.
A report from Boston-based Ceres can be found here. It is an analyis examining water use in hydraulic fracturing that details the process in different areas of the country. The Ceres report, page 20, corroborates on a national basis what the Department has noted in the past about the difference between horizontal and vertical well completions. That is, national averages of water use are about 85 percent lower for vertical completion wells than horizontal completions.
SB 4 requires that oil and gas producers report water usage in all California well stimulation activities as of January 1 of this year.
New Well Search Tools Available
The Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has two new online tools that make finding information about California wells more convenient. The Division's Well Finder application shows every known oil and gas well in the state. Users can search for a well in a variety of ways and view production information, the well record, and notice/permit information, including whether the Division has been notified that well stimulation is being used.
Also now online is the Division's Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Notices Index, which allows users to view forms submitted by oil and gas operators to the Division about well stimulation operations, as required by the interim regulations supporting SB 4.
Solar Easement Regulations Finalized
In December 2013, the Department of Conservation submitted official regulations to the Office of Administrative Law to establish the procedures, fees, standards and criteria for solar-use easements between agricultural landowners and cities and counties that are parties to Land Conservation and Farmland Security Zone Act contracts, as provided in SB 618. The regulatory process is now complete. More information and the final regulations can be found here.
- The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) announced steps to review the state's Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program in order to ensure that the program fully complies with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, designed to prevent waste water associated with oil production from being injected into aquifers containing water suitable for human or agricultural use. Read more here.
- Shaking causes most of the destruction in an earthquake. But the Long Valley Caldera-Mono Lake area, which has five faults capable of producing a temblor of magnitude 6.7 or greater, faces additional sources of damage in the next large quake, according to a new report from the California Geological Survey (CGS) and the U.S. Geological Survey. Find out more here.
- Revised proposed regulations for the use of well stimulation in oil and gas production were released for public comment on June 13, 2014. The news release is here.
- According to the latest report on land-use change in California from the Division of Land Resource Protection, irrigated farmland decreased by nearly 263 square miles between 2008 and 2010. Click this link for more information.
- Construction sand and gravel was California's leading mineral commodity in terms of dollar value in 2012, according to a new California Geological Survey (CGS) report. Boron minerals, portland cement, crushed stone, and gold rounded out the top five commodities in a state with total mineral production valued at $3.3 billion.
- The 50th anniversary of the deadliest tsunami in California history is March 27. State and federal scientists and emergency managers are working to minimize loss of life and property the next time a big wave strikes, concentrating their current efforts on those whose livelihood depends on the sea as well as recreational boaters. Check out what the California Geological Survey is doing to prepare for tsunamis.
- On January 17, 1994, the magnitude 6.7 Northridge Earthquake struck Southern California. It caused 57 fatalities and up to $40 billion in damage, making it the costliest earthquake in U.S. history. Twenty years later, the Department of Conservation remembers all that was lost and prepares for the future.
- The California Geological Survey issued preliminary versions of two regulatory maps to aid in land-use planning in the greater Los Angeles area. These Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone Maps outline zones of required site investigations along the Hollywood Fault as well as active faults in the Monrovia-Duarte-Azusa area.
- Department Issues Well Stimulation Regulations for 2014.
Senate Bill 4 (Pavley, Ch 313, Stats of 2013) directs the Department to allow well stimulation to continue until permanent regulations are adopted, provided oil and gas operators certify compliance with specified provisions. Those provisions are found in section 3161 of that bill. The regulations and additional information can be found here.
- Public input on the scope and content of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for statewide well stimulation activities will be taken at five upcoming scoping meetings. The meetings are aimed at local governments, public agencies, organizations and individuals. Once in draft form, the EIR will be circulated for specific comments on its analysis and conclusions.
- The DOC has sent out public notice of proposed regulations for well stimulation treatment for oil and gas production. The public notice begins the formal rulemaking process and marks the beginning of a 60-day public comment period.
- The California Geological Survey (CGS) recently completed a trench study across the West Tahoe Fault in an effort to learn how often large earthquakes occur in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Ultimately, CGS may use information from the trenching project and previous research from along the fault from the bottom of Lake Tahoe to create seismic hazard maps for ground rupture, liquefaction, tsunami inundation, and landslides.
- The state's Office of Mine Reclamation has completed a 3 1/2-year inventory of potentially dangerous abandoned mines on the National Park Service's California land.
- While scientists can't predict when a great earthquake producing a pan-Pacific tsunami will occur, thanks to new tools being developed by federal and state officials, scientists can now offer more accurate insight into the likely impacts when tsunamis occur. This knowledge can lead officials and the public to reduce the risk of the future tsunamis that will impact California. Read more here.