In an action plan provided to EPA on November 16, the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) committed to initiate rulemaking in 2013 to increase groundwater protection relating to fracking through its underground injection control (UIC) program. DOGGR developed the plan in response to EPA’s request to address concerns relating to EPA’s 2011 review of DOGGR’s UIC program. In the plan, DOGGR indicates the rulemaking will address the UIC program as well as well construction and plugging and abandonment regulations. The purpose of the rulemaking, according to DOGGR’s cover letter to EPA, is “to identify those areas where the Division can improve its UIC program to more fully advance the objectives of the Safe Drinking Water Act.” DOGGR also indicates in the plan that it will determine whether statutory changes are needed.
DOGGR has had primary responsibility and authority over Class II UIC wells, which are injected with fluids associated with oil and natural gas production, since 1983. In 2009, DOGGR commenced a UIC program evaluation that resulted in increased technical review for UIC projects. Nonetheless, DOGGR indicates in the plan that it has not made significant changes to its UIC program regulations since its inception. With respect to “changes in oilfield practices and advancements in technology,” DOGGR states that it “has been slow to change its regulatory framework.” The plan also indicates that DOGGR will focus on bringing all operators into compliance.