On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) announced that it will be holding a “Stakeholder Meeting to Develop Groundwater Monitoring Model Criteria for Oil & Gas Areas.”  The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 7, 2014 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the Kern County Supervisors Chambers in Bakersfield.  The Water Board is required to develop model groundwater monitoring criteria by July 1, 2015 pursuant to Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”).  (Wat. Code, § 10783, subd. (c).) 

Interim well stimulation regulations, issued by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) came into effect on January 1, 2014.  DOGGR is on schedule to publish permanent regulations on January 1, 2015.  Under the interim regulations, well operators must submit a groundwater monitoring plan, or request an exemption from the Water Board if the operator can show the absence of protected waters.  (Interim Regulations, § 1783.1, subd. (b)(4).)  If the exemption is granted, the Water Board issues a written concurrence.  (§ 1783.4, subd. (c).)

Other requirements of SB 4, specific to the Water Board, include consultation and creation of a formal agreement with DOGGR regarding well stimulation regulation; designation of “one or more qualified independent third-party contractor[s] . . . to perform the water sampling and testing;” and audit and review sampling conducted by third-party contractors. (Pub. Res. Code, §§ 3160, subd. (c)(2), (c)(7)(B)-(C).) Additionally, the Water Board must begin implementation of a regional groundwater monitoring plan by January 1, 2016. (Wat. Code, § 10783, subd. (h).)

To read more about SB 4 and groundwater monitoring criteria, see Stoel Rives’ SB 4 Resources Page here. For maps showing groundwater in the state, visit the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) websites: the Southern San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley.

By Mike Mills (mnmills@stoel.com) and Shannon Morrissey. Ms. Morrissey is a Law Clerk/Summer Associate with Stoel Rives LLP and is not currently licensed to practice law in California.