A recent Viewpoint by Natalie Risner and Maya Golden-Krasner from the Center for Biological Diversity with an alarmist headline (“Oil industry threatens aquifer in SLO County’s Price Canyon area,” March 19) relied heavily on hyperbole and fearmongering. However, the facts and science about what’s actually happening are much less tantalizing.
What’s really happening is that state and federal regulators are updating boundaries for the majority of the oil fields in California, including Arroyo Grande, in accordance with the most current geologic information available. This was last done in 1983, so it makes sense for regulators to update these boundaries so they align with the current known oil field boundaries.
Despite the scary rhetoric being used by the CBD, water exists naturally in oil- and gas-bearing zones. For every barrel of oil produced, about 15 barrels of water are produced that were naturally mixed with the oil. The oil and gas are separated from this extremely salty water, which can’t be used for drinking because it is within a hydrocarbon zone. Oil producers treat and use this water for other oil recovery operations or reinject it back into the formation from where it came.
State and federal regulators closely monitor produced water reinjection operations. These operations have allowed California to meet the energy demands of its citizens while protecting the environment and providing valuable jobs, taxes and economic activity to our communities.
Never miss a local story.
Through use of modern technology, more information is understood today about the geologic footprints of California’s oil fields than was available in 1983. The review process underway is simply intended to update these 33-year-old boundaries to reflect current knowledge.
To date, regulators have found no evidence of contamination as a result of produced water reinjection at these fields. Despite these facts, the CBD is trying to slow down the boundary review process through alarmist missives, such as the recent Viewpoint.
While the CBD argues against water reinjection, it ignores what, in reality, is the most environmentally favorable way to treat oil field fluid flows. Without reinjection into existing oil reservoirs, California oil production would come to a halt, making our state significantly more reliant on foreign imports from countries that don’t have the extensive environmental regulations in place for oil production that we do.
While the CBD argues against water reinjection, it ignores what, in reality, is the most environmentally favorable way to treat oil field fluid flows. Without reinjection into existing oil reservoirs, California oil production would come to a halt
This paradox unlocks the true motives of anti-oil activists who believe the only responsible oil production is no oil production. Environmental extremists such as the CBD argue that the state and federal government should ignore the latest geologic information in the hope that adhering to outdated boundaries will eventually help end oil production in the state.
Ignoring science seems to be a guiding principle for one of the CBD’s founders, Kieran Suckling, who reportedly said that not having science degrees has contributed to the group’s success. He was quoted as saying in 2009: “I’m more interested in hiring philosophers, linguists and poets. The core talent of a successful environmental activist is not science and law.”
This cavalier belief that oil production should be stopped based on opinion, and that updating scientific and geologic information and boundaries should be avoided, is the definition of extremism. If taken seriously, the CBD’s opinions would have a detrimental impact on the state as a whole — and particularly on San Luis Obispo County.
The oil and gas industry is responsible for high-quality jobs in the county. Business travel associated with servicing the Arroyo Grande oil field generates tens of thousands of dollars annually in revenue for local hotels, restaurants and other businesses. The Arroyo Grande oil field in fact is the third largest individual contributor of property tax to the county. The CBD’s efforts to delay and derail the boundary update process are intended to end all these economic contributions.
With so much at stake for the community and the state, we need to avoid veiled attempts to derail the boundary update process through obfuscation and scare tactics, and let state and federal regulators complete their work.
Rock Zierman is CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association, a nonprofit, nonpartisan trade association thats members represent about 70 percent of California’s total oil production.