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Demanding Environmental Review for Kern County Oil Drilling Permits

An almond farmer watches oil wells that have sprouted next to almond orchards near Bakersfield, CA.

An almond farmer watches oil wells that have sprouted next to almond orchards near Bakersfield, CA. Many worry that the new techniques being used to go after the oil, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, could potentially damage groundwater in agricultural areas.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

What’s at Stake

Aera Energy intends to frack at least 144 of the newly permitted wells, which requires tapping already strained water resources.

DOGGR has not analyzed the project’s threats to water supplies and the risks associated with the release of harmful air pollutants, greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals into the environment.

Overview

Environmental groups and local residents are sued California oil regulators for approving a massive number of new oil drilling permits in Kern County without analyzing the risks to air, water and public health, as required by law.

The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has issued at least 214 permits since July of 2014 to Aera Energy to drill new oil and gas wells in the South Belridge Oil Field in Kern County without the environmental review required by the California Environmental Quality Act. Fracking techniques will be used on a majority of these wells. DOGGR regularly fails to conduct legally required reviews for oil and gas drilling projects in Kern County, the lawsuit explains.

Aera Energy intended to frack at least 144 of the newly permitted wells, which requires tapping already strained water resources. Steam injection and water flooding techniques may also be used on other newly permitted wells.

With water supplies already depleted by the ongoing drought, the lawsuit noted that DOGGR erred by not studying whether the local water supply could sustainably provide water for well drilling and water-intensive extraction practices like fracking and steam injection.

The coalition sought to stop drilling in the illegally permitted wells until DOGGR had analyzed the project’s threats to water supplies and the risks associated with the release of harmful air pollutants, greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals into the environment.

Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of the Association of Irritated Residents, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club.

Case Updates

November 12, 2014 | Legal Document

Belridge Complaint

Environmental groups and local residents, represented by Earthjustice, are suing the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources for approving a massive number of new oil drilling permits in Kern County without analyzing the risks to air, water and public health, as required by law.