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California Releases New Proposed Regulations Applicable to Oil and Gas Well Treatments

On November 15, 2013, the California Department of Conservation (“DOC”) released proposed regulations applicable to oil and gas well stimulation activities in the state.  This follows up on the passage of SB 4 back on September 20, 2013, which established the first set of requirements specifically associated with hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation techniques.  Previously, in December 2012, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”)  released a pre-rulemaking “discussion draft” of regulations applicable to hydraulic fracturing.  However, that discussion draft did not trigger the formal rulemaking process and simply acted as a means of engaging stakeholders in the process early on.  DOGGR withdrew the discussion draft following the passage of SB 4.

The DOC proposed “SB 4 Well Stimulation Treatment Regulations” define the types of well stimulation treatments, e.g. “hydraulic fracturing,” and set out various requirements applicable to such treatments.  Some of the requirements covered by the proposed regulations include the need to (i) obtain a permit prior to the treatment, (ii) provide pre-treatment notice to property owners so that baseline water testing can be conducted, (iii) perform an evaluation of the well integrity prior to treatment and monitoring during treatment, (iv) adhere to standards for storage and handling of well stimulation fluids, (v) perform post-treatment monitoring, and (vi) submit to the Chemical Disclosure Registry information relating to the contents of the treatment.

The release of the proposed rule kicks of the beginning of the formal rulemaking process and the 60-day comment period.  DOC had indicated that, in alignment with SB 4, the regulations are scheduled to go in to effect on January 1, 2015.  However, in the meantime, the DOC plans on implementing emergency regulations as of January 1, 2014 “to ensure the major requirements of SB 4 are addressed in the interim.”

© 2020 Bracewell LLPNational Law Review, Volume III, Number 319


About this Author

Heather M. Palmer, Bracewell Law Firm, Environmental Attorney

Heather Corken offers clients in-depth environmental regulatory knowledge and experience in energy-related environmental issues. As a partner in the environmental strategies group, Heather helps energy, petrochemical and pipeline companies and private equity firms that are seeking guidance on environmental compliance and the allocation of environmental liabilities in mergers and acquisitions.

Jason Hutt, Environmental Attorney, Bracewell law firm

Jason Hutt, head of the firm’s Environmental and Natural Resources practice, advises energy companies, manufacturers, project developers, investor groups and financial institutions about environmental risks and liabilities associated with incident response, regulatory compliance, project development, congressional and internal investigations and corporate transactions. He also assists in the defense of administrative, civil and criminal proceedings involving environmental enforcement agencies at the federal and state levels. Jason counsels clients on current and upcoming regulatory developments at the nexus of environmental and energy policy, with focused attention on shale gas development (including hydraulic fracturing).

Michael Weller, Government Investigations, Attorney, Bracewell law firm

Michael Weller advises clients in the context of government investigations and enforcement actions, regulatory compliance and advocacy, litigation, permitting, and in quantifying and allocating liabilities during business transactions. He represents clients in the energy sector, including upstream oil and gas companies and pipelines, as well as industry trade associations, manufacturers, importers, and financial institutions in a wide range of environmental law and business matters.

Mike joined Bracewell after working seven years as a biologist...