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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 8th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 10

State agencies consider aquifer exemption in Cat Canyon Oil Field

By ZAC EZZONE

Oil companies may have more space to build injection wells in the Cat Canyon Oil Field if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves a potential recommendation from various state agencies.

The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)—along with the State Water Resources Control Board and the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board—is considering recommending that the EPA expand the aquifer exemption area in the oil field where injection projects can take place.

The original boundaries for injections in the oil field were established in 1983. Two years ago, several well operators within the oil field requested that DOGGR recommend the EPA expand the existing exemption area based on updated information.

“In the decades since, it has been established that the reservoir containing the oil/groundwater mixture is larger than was believed,” California Department of Conservation Media Relations Manager Don Drysdale said in an email to the Sun earlier this year.

If the EPA approves expanding the exempted area, class 2 injection wells could be built over almost the entire oil field boundary, according to maps prepared by DOGGR. These wells are used to dispose of fluids associated with oil and gas production.

According to DOGGR, even if the EPA approves this expansion, any injection well project would still involve a regulatory process separate from the aquifer exemption. According to federal law, injection wells can only be built in aquifers that don’t currently serve as a source of drinking water and can’t serve as a source of drinking water in the future.

The aquifers in most of the Cat Canyon Oil Field meet these requirements because the water contains hydrocarbons that are commercially producible. Additionally, the fluids injected into the aquifer are expected to remain in the portion of the aquifer that would be exempted.

“Expanding the geologic zones into which injection is allowed may be appropriate, since the water they contain is not suitable for drinking or agricultural use,” Drysdale said.

On May 3, DOGGR announced it’s holding a public comment period and public hearing that will give residents an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal. As part of that process, DOGGR is also holding a public hearing in Santa Maria at the Veterans’ Memorial Community Center located at 313 W. Tunnell St. on June 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. 




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