SACRAMENTO, Calif. Feb. 15, 2017— The Trump administration this week granted requests from Gov. Jerry Brown’s regulators to exempt three aquifers near the Fruitvale, Round Mountain and Tejon oilfields in California’s Kern County from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Approval of these “aquifer exemption” applications by Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency gives oil companies permission to dump contaminated waste fluid into these underground water supplies.
“Gov. Brown’s legacy will be deeply tarnished by this deplorable decision to let the most anti-environmental administration in history decide the future of California aquifers,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trump’s EPA is clearly eager to help state oil regulators give California’s water away to the petroleum industry. In the dry decades to come, we’re going to bitterly regret the governor’s willingness to sacrifice this water to oil companies.”
The applications were drafted by oil companies and then submitted to the EPA by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. California officials plan to submit dozens of additional exemption applications for other aquifers across the state, including underground water sources in Alameda, Monterey, Ventura, Kern and other counties (see interactive map).
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If the EPA approves the state’s applications, oil companies would be allowed to operate injection wells and dump waste fluid into these underground sources of drinking water. Oil waste fluid commonly contains cancer-causing benzene and other pollutants.
The aquifer exemption process also shrugs off the risk that oil industry injections could trigger manmade earthquakes. Scientists recently linked oilfield injections in the Tejon area to an earthquake swarm. Even minor tremors could endanger other nearby water supplies by opening up pathways to contamination.