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Indybay Feature
Tue Feb 14 2017 (Updated 02/15/17)
Trump Administration Waives Water-Protection Rule for California Oilfields
Tue Feb 14 2017 (Updated 02/15/17)
Safe Drinking Water Exemptions Allow Oil Companies to Dump Waste Fluid Into Aquifers
The Trump administration this week granted requests from Gov. Jerry Brown's regulators to exempt three aquifers near the Fruitvale, Round Mountain and Tejon oilfields in California's Kern County from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Approval of these "aquifer exemption" applications by the Environmental Protection Agency gives oil companies permission to dump contaminated waste fluid into these underground water supplies.

The applications were drafted by oil companies and then submitted to the EPA by California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. California officials plan to submit dozens of additional exemption applications for other aquifers across the state, including underground water sources in Alameda, Monterey, Ventura, Kern and other counties.

Oil waste fluid commonly contains cancer-causing benzene and other pollutants. The aquifer exemption process also shrugs off the risk that oil industry injections could trigger manmade earthquakes. Scientists recently linked oilfield injections in the Tejon area to an earthquake swarm. Even minor tremors could endanger other nearby water supplies by opening up pathways to contamination.

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