Oil Firm Fined for Fracking Discharge

Thursday, November 21, 2013 @ 05:11 PM gHale

Vintage Production California LLC will pay a $60,000 penalty after discharging saline water and hydraulic fracturing fluid into an unlined pit, California state water authorities said last week.

The settlement with Vintage is the first state action against an oil company involving hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which extracts oil from shale by injecting it with water and chemicals at high pressure.

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The company also agreed to further investigate possible groundwater contamination around the pit, according to the draft order posted by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The public has 30 days to comment on the order.

A spokeswoman for Vintage Production, a subsidiary of Occident Petroleum, said the company fully cooperated in the investigation. Spokeswoman Susie Geiger said Vintage’s primary concern is to safeguard the environment.

Though hundreds of new fracking wells started up in the last three years, California does not have a specific law governing it. Gov. Jerry Brown this year signed Senate Bill 4, regulating the controversial practice. It will take effect in January.

Petroleum industry officials said fracking is a safe, proven technology. But environmentalists are suing to stop California fracking, saying no one knows for sure if it is polluting the underground water or the air.

State inspectors issued a notice of violation earlier this year to Vintage Production. Authorities started their investigation of Vintage after viewing a YouTube video shot in October 2012 of an illegal discharge near Shafter.

Regional board leaders now are reviewing a state waiver granted five years ago that allows oil companies to legally discharge some kinds of fluids and drilling muds into unlined pits.

In the settlement, Vintage agreed to cease discharging into any unlined pits in agricultural areas.

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