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Oil Industry Dumping in Healthy Aquifers Amid California's Drought

Inadequate state enforcement of protected underground aquifers led to a group of emergency cease and desist orders. The failure of regulators is "especially disturbing" in a state stricken by a historic, economy- and life-threatening drought.
July 29, 2014, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review of more than 100 others in the state’s drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there," reports Abrahm Lustgarten.

The problem originates from a group of some 100 aquifers deemed useless for drinking and farming and exempted from environmental protection, allowing oil companies to pump waste into them relatively regulation free. According to Lustgarten, "[the] exempted aquifers, according to documents the state filed with the U.S. EPA in 1981 and obtained by ProPublica, were poorly defined and ambiguously outlined. They were often identified by hand-drawn lines on a map, making it difficult to know today exactly which bodies of water were supposed to be protected, and by which aspects of the governing laws."

The U.S. EPA have been tracking the practices of the state, completing a scathing review in 2011 and warning that state authority could be revoked. The state has yet to complete a report as the first step in improving its regulations of the well injection program.

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