Even as new research from Stanford University suggests drought-stricken California has a bonanza of underground water in areas where oil companies operate, state regulators are planning to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to exempt a substantial number of aquifers from rules meant to prevent oil industry pollution [“Study: California sitting on vast water reserve,” Politics & the Nation, June 28].
California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has already asked the EPA to exempt one aquifer in San Luis Obispo County from protection under the Safe Drinking Water Act. A recently released work plan shows that officials are contemplating submitting “aquifer exemption” applications for as many as 60 other underground sources of drinking water. If the EPA approves these exemption applications, oil companies would be allowed to operate injection wells and dump oil waste fluid in these water sources. Oil wastewater commonly contains cancer-causing benzene, according to testing by regulators and oil companies.
The EPA must push California Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) regulators to reverse course on this irresponsible plan. If we let oil companies contaminate these aquifers and endanger nearby water resources, Californians will bitterly regret this decision in the dry decades to come.
Maya Golden-Krasner, Altadena, Calif.
The writer is a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.