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Two Advocacy Groups Challenge California Oil Regulator To Correct The Record On True Oil Drilling Permit Numbers

Tue, 09/22/2020 - 09:13
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Uduak-Joe Ntuk

Los Angeles, CA — Consumer Watchdog and the FracTracker Alliance challenged the state’s Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk “to be honest with the public about the data” on oil drilling in the state. They stated his refusal to acknowledge data published by the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) “sullies CalGEM and reflects poorly on an Administration that claims desperately to want to stem the cruel tide of climate change.”

The groups also called upon Ntuk to clear up the record and to publish the numbers of wells actually drilled and wells actually plugged as opposed to merely the number of permits issued for those activities.

Read the letter here: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/CalGEMLtr9-22-20.pdf

At issue is CalGEM data that show an increase of 185% in permits to drill new oil and gas (O&G) production wells in the first six months of 2020.  The groups clearly broke this classification out from the rest of the permitting data that includes “Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and Support wells.” EOR wells use toxic chemicals and energy intensive techniques to bring low quality oil to the surface, but can also cause spills and destabilize the casing integrity of nearby wells. These permits decreased in the first six months, bringing the total increase for both new O&G and EOR drilling permits to 8.68%.

The permit numbers and well locations are also posted and updated on an interactive map at the website: NewsomWellWatch.com

Ntuk refuses to acknowledge the huge jump in new oil production well permits specifically, suggesting that the groups made a mistake when they did not. As the advocacy groups pointed out in a letter to Ntuk, the rise in oil and gas production wells of 185% is particularly important for public health.

“Our focus on oil and gas production wells is directly related to the implications for public health associated with oil and gas extraction. We consider new oil and gas production wells as particularly high risk because they are sources of toxic and carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hydrocarbons that degrade local air quality. This impacts the health of 5.4 million people living in Frontline Communities within a mile of these wells.

“We write to ask that you set the record straight” the groups wrote. “According to the data, it is undeniable that permits to drill new oil and gas production wells rose 185% and disingenuous to suggest that we ‘misinterpreted’ the data,” the letter that provided a chart with the breakdown of different well permits continued.

“It also is incorrect to suggest that the number of permits issued for sealing old wells outpaces the number of permits for new wells,” the letter elaborated. “According to state data, CalGEM issued 1,820 permits to plug up existing wells in the first six months versus a total of 2,673 new drilling and rework (including well deepening and sidetracking) permits, in addition to 48 fracking permits, expanding oil production.

“In order to find solutions to the terrible climate disaster and wildfires plaguing California today, we must be honest with the public about the data and what it shows us.”

For more, see: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/permits-drill-new-oil-and-gas-wells-zoom-190-first-six-months-2020-under-gov-newsom

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