Today, the California Department of Conservation (DOC) and its Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) released additional “emergency” regulations governing the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other well stimulation activities. The proposed regulations may be found here, and the accompanying Notice of Proposed Emergency Rulemaking Action may be found here. These regulations supplement those released on November 15, 2013 (see our story here) and are intended to provide clarity and guidance to operators who are subject to aspects of SB 4 that take effect January 1, 2014.
The emergency regulations establish general well stimulation treatment requirements governing casing integrity and well cementing, production zone isolation, wellbore mechanical integrity, pressure testing of downhole equipment, proper rigging and testing of surface equipment, appropriate concentrations of well stimulation treatment fluid, and updating the operator’s Spill Contingency Plan. They also require operators to provide written notification to DOGGR at least ten days in advance of well stimulation activities, on a form developed by DOGGR (pdf). DOGGR must be further notified at least 72 hours before well stimulation activities begin to allow an opportunity to provide oversight. The written notice to DOGGR must include, among other things, a complete list of the chemical constituents of the well stimulation fluid, a water management plan, a groundwater monitoring plan, and evidence that the operator has contracted with a third party to provide notice to neighboring property owners. Well stimulation cannot begin until 30 days after the required notice has been provided and property owners have been given an opportunity to request and obtain water well sampling. Thus, for operators desiring to begin well stimulation activities in early 2014, notice should be given immediately, as directed by a November 20, 2013, DOGGR notice (pdf). Indeed, several notices have already been provided and are available on the DOC web site (here).
Because these regulations must go into effect on January 1, 2014, they will not be subjected to the usual rulemaking process required under California law, which can take up to twelve months. (See our analysis of California’s rulemaking process here.) The regulations will instead be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on December 19, 2013, and will be posted on OAL’s web site. Interested parties will then have five calendar days to submit comments directly to OAL, with a copy to DOC. Adoption of emergency regulations does not require that DOC or DOGGR respond to the comments. Additional information about the emergency rulemaking process is available on OAL’s website (here).