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State Water Board to hold public workshop on groundwater and oil wells this week

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California's State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) will be holding a public workshop in Bakersfield this Thursday to solicit public comments regarding groundwater modeling criteria related to certain oil and gas wells. The workshop is part of a mandated public stakeholder process required by SB4, a state law enacted to address concerns related to well stimulation techniques, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

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The meeting will be held at the Kern County Board of Supervisors Chambers from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The workshop comes on the heels of recent actions by California's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to halt injection of wastewater by several oil companies in the Bakersfield area. Concerns had been raised that the wells may have been contaminating a groundwater aquifer. Additionally, a review of underground injection control (UIC) regulations was ordered.

The workshop will begin with formal presentations on the process for developing model criteria given by the State Water Board, DOGGR, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL). Those presentations will be followed by presentations from public stakeholders, including representatives of the oil and gas industry, environmental justice groups, local government, and agriculture.

Fracking has become an internationally controversial technique for oil and gas recovery. The process involves injecting water and chemicals under high pressure into oil and gas formations in order to fracture formation rock, thus facilitating the recovery of oil and gas. Opponents of the technique claim that it is environmentally dangerous, resulting in possible contamination of drinking water supplies as well as posing a significant methane leak source, thus exasperating global warming concerns. Proponents claim the process is safe and in California, has been used for over 40 years with no problems.