NEWS WORTH NOTING: Reclamation seeks comment on draft changes to Central Valley Project water banking guidelines; CA Water Board finds oil-industry contaminants in water wells; Democrats push for more DOI FOIA staff

Reclamation seeks comment on draft changes to Central Valley Project water banking guidelines

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation released today draft changes to the Groundwater Banking Guidelines for Central Valley Project Water. The guidelines, originally published in 2014, outline when Reclamation may approve banking and recovering of Central Valley Project water outside of a contractor’s service area.

In response to the state of California’s implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Reclamation proposes changes to the guidelines to allow for flexible groundwater banking programs that are consistent and in compliance with state and federal laws.

The draft changes are meant to allow for the use of Central Valley Project water to achieve sustainable groundwater management within Central Valley Project contractors’ sub-basins as identified in the state of California’s Bulletin 118.

The guidelines with marked draft changes are available for review here. Comments are due by May 24 at 5:00 pm PTD. Email comments to slooper@usbr.gov. Written comments may be sent to Sheri Looper, Bureau of Reclamation-MP 400, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA, 95825.

California Water Board Finds Oil-industry Contaminants in Water Wells

Fracking Near Protected Groundwater Increasing in California

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

Oil-industry pollutants were present in water-supply wells in Kern County, according to a new report released by the State Water Resources Control Board. Chemicals detected at elevated levels include arsenic, barium and boron. The report also showed a recent increase in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) near protected groundwater in California.

“Here’s more proof that California’s dirty oil production is polluting our precious groundwater,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “You’d think the water boards would take immediate action to protect our water from further contamination, but when it comes to the oil industry, they routinely look the other way.”

The report’s preliminary results were part of groundwater monitoring mandated by California Senate Bill 4 to determine the effects of fracking on groundwater. Though the report is unclear on whether the detected pollutants are from fracking operations, there were “multiple lines of geochemical evidence” showing oil-industry contaminants have co-mingled with nearby sources of protected groundwater.

The water board stated that pollution is “expected” given how close water wells are to oil and gas activities. It also deemed it “likely” that unlined oil-industry wastewater pits caused some of the water pollution. California is the only state with significant oil production that allows wastewater to be dumped into unlined pits, and independent scientists have called for the state to phase out this practice. The regional water boards still allow toxic wastewater discharges to continue at hundreds of wastewater pits.

The report also disclosed that fracking has increased in areas with protected groundwater. In 2017 oil companies submitted 12 proposed groundwater monitoring plans that, if approved, would allow fracking near valuable groundwater resources. In 2018 that number doubled to 24.

Fracking and oil-waste fluids can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. A 2015 study from the California Council on Science and Technology concluded that fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, dangerously close to underground drinking water supplies, with unusually high concentrations of dangerous contaminants. The study also concluded that groundwater monitoring alone is inadequate to protect water and that shallow fracking should be prohibited unless it can be proven safe.

“On top of fueling climate chaos, drilling and fracking pose a toxic threat to air and water in nearby communities,” Kretzmann said. “To lead on climate change and protect his constituents, Governor Newsom must phase out fossil fuel extraction in California.”

As Questions Mount on Interior Handling of FOIA Requests, Grijalva and Cummings Lead Letter to Appropriators Pushing for More DOI FOIA Staff

From the Natural Resource Democrats:

Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) today sent a letter with Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.), chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), chair of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Environment, to top House appropriators urging a funding increase sufficient to hire at least 10 new full-time employees dedicated to FOIA response.

The full letter, addressed to House Appropriations Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Ranking Member David Joyce (R-Ohio), is available at http://bit.ly/2Dd7iLf.

As the authors note, DOI has experienced at least a 30 percent increase in new FOIA requests since the beginning of the Trump administration, which includes a 210 percent increase in new FOIA requests to the Office of the Secretary since fiscal year 2016. More than 100 FOIA cases are now in litigation due to agency non-response, and the FOIA office is suffering from staff attrition.

To avoid political interference, the authors note that the new hires “should be supervised, to the extent it complies with FOIA, by the Department’s Deputy Chief FOIA Office, a career Senior Executive Service position in accordance with the current structure of DOI’s FOIA program.”

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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