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California Moves Closer to Regulating Fracking

Nov. 19, 2013

加州向压裂作业监管迈进了一步

On November 15, 2013, the California Department of Conservation, Division of Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) took several actions to advance the development of California’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). DOGGR’s actions are in response to SB 4, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 20, 2103 to regulate fracking operations and other “well stimulation treatments” in the state. DOGGR announced its latest actions in three concurrent releases:

• DOGGR issued for public review and comment draft regulations that will become effective on January 1, 2015. (Public comments due by 5:00 pm January 14, 2014.)

• DOGGR issued a notice that it will prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) “to evaluate the impacts of existing and potential future oil and gas well stimulation treatments occurring within California.” (Public comments due by 5:00 pm January 16, 2014.)

• DOGGR published a “Senate Bill 4 Implementation Plan” setting milestone dates for SB 4’s regulatory regime, including that:

• on December 13, 2013 it will issue emergency interim regulations to govern fracking activities during 2014. (No official comment period, however persons may wish to submit comments as soon as possible.).

• by March of 2014, it will release draft regulations addressing procedures for group authorization of well stimulation programs.

These actions will have major implications for future fracking operations in California.

Summary of Key Provisions of Draft Fracking Regulations

As envisioned in SB 4 (additional information about SB 4 may be found here and here), DOGGR’s draft regulations establish a permitting program for well stimulation activities focused on ensuring that well stimulation is done safely with detailed public disclosure. The regulations clarify that they apply to all well stimulation practices including hydraulic fracturing and most acid stimulation techniques used to improve recovery, and that they do not apply to routine well operations or underground injection projects. Following is a summary of some of the key provisions of the proposed regulations:

Application Requirements/Fluid Disclosure. Operators are not allowed to conduct fracking or other well stimulation techniques without a DOGGR permit. The permit application must include 26 information items listed in the regulations. These items include: (a) the wellbore path; (b) the size and location of the induced fractures; (c) the anticipated volume, rate and pressure of fracking fluid to be injected; (d) the identity and concentration of each chemical used in the fracking fluid; (e) a well stimulation radius analysis that must identify all nearby water and other wells; (f) a water management plan; (g) an estimate of waste generated and a disposal plan; and (h) certification from the Regional Water Board that the well is covered by a groundwater monitoring plan. As provided in SB 4, Public Resource Code Section 3160(j), an operator can claim that the chemical constituents of the stimulation fluid are a trade secret if it asserts the protection in the initial application. If the trade secret claim is substantiated, the information still needs to be provided to DOGGR but it shall not be publicly released. The draft regulations give DOGGR the flexibility to approve multiple applications that are part of a “single project.”

Public Notification. At least 30 days before beginning fracking operations, operators must provide to all property owners and tenants within a 1,500-foot radius of the wellhead a copy of the DOGGR permit. The notification must be provided by an independent third party retained by the operator. This person must submit to DOGGR both the names of those notified and the method by which notice occurred.

Evaluation of Well Integrity Prior to Fracking. Operators are responsible for ensuring, prior to engaging in fracking or other well stimulation activity, that the well is capable of withstanding the proposed stimulation activity and that the well stimulation fluids will be confined. The regulations require that an operator conduct specific tests to demonstrate the integrity of the well, unless waived by DOGGR. The operator is also required to gather information regarding the geological formations and other wells in the vicinity of the target well. It must model the fracturing fluids' movement to ensure that the fluids will not migrate outside the intended zones. The operator is also required to pressure test the well no more than 24 hours prior to commencing stimulation activities.

Monitoring During Fracking. While fracking activities are underway, operators are required to monitor injection rates and pressure. If pressures exceed certain enumerated limits or the operator suspects a breach, fracking activities must cease. The operator must then perform diagnostic testing and provide DOGGR with notice and an opportunity to witness the tests. If testing shows that a breach has occurred, the operator must provide information about the well and the breach to DOGGR and the Regional Water Board.

Storage and Handling of Fracking Fluids. The regulations require operators: (a) to store fracking and other well stimulation fluids in accordance with the “secondary containment requirements” of preexisting regulations; (b) to account for fluids in a Spill Contingency Plan; (c) to store fluids in containers (as opposed to sumps or pits); and, in the event of a spill, (d) to notify “appropriate response entities” as well as DOGGR.

Post-Fracking Monitoring. After a well has undergone fracking or another well stimulation treatment, operators remain responsible for monitoring the well’s continued production to ensure that the well has not failed. Production pressure, as well as the amount of gas, oil and water produced, must be monitored and reported to DOGGR every two days for the first thirty days. Production pressure must continue to be reported on a monthly basis. Annular pressures must be reported annually or immediately upon exceeding certain enumerated values. The regulations also require the installation of a pressure relief device, although DOGGR may waive this requirement if the operator can demonstrate that the device is unnecessary. If installed, all pressure releases must be immediately reported to DOGGR.

Post-Fracking Disclosures and Reporting. Within 60 days after fracking a well, the operator is required to post information about the well and the fracking activity to the Chemical Disclosure Registry, including: (a) the well name and location; (b) the name, concentration and purpose of each fracking fluid additive; (c) the name, CAS number (if available), and concentration of each fracking fluid chemical constituent; (d) the total volume of fluid used and recovered; and (e) the source, volume and disposition of all water used during fracking. As previously noted, the information relating to the constituent of the stimulation fluid may be protected from public disclosure as a trade secret. Also within 60 days after fracking a well, the operator must submit a report to DOGGR describing the activity, pressures encountered and how the activity differs from that anticipated. Operators must specifically note the occurrence of any earthquakes greater than magnitude 2.0 that occurred in the area after fracking activities began.

It is anticipated that the proposed regulation will receive tens if not hundreds of thousands of comments. DOGGR has indicated that it will release a second draft regulation later this spring after having the benefit of such comments. The draft regulations do not address how well stimulation projects will be approved after the effective date of SB 4 but before adoption of the regulations.

Emergency Interim Regulations

As of January 1, 2014, operators will be required to certify that they are in compliance with specified provisions of SB 4 prior to engaging in any regulated well stimulation activity. However, the required components of the certification and how the certification will be processed remains unclear. To address these issues, DOGGR has announced that it will utilize its emergency regulatory authority to establish rules for the interim 2014 authorization process. The emergency regulations are anticipated to: identify the types of stimulation treatment regulated in the interim period, provide guidance regarding necessary groundwater monitoring and establish public disclosure requirements. Because these rules will be adopted under DOGGRs emergency powers, no public comment period will be provided. Given the import of the regulations on operations over the next year, interested members of the public may want to provide suggestions prior to release of the regulations or comments after publication.

Preparation of the Environmental Impact Report

SB 4 directs DOGGR to prepare a state-wide environmental impact report (EIR) to provide the public with “detailed information” regarding potential environmental effects associated with fracking and other well stimulation treatments. In its November 15, 2013 Notice of Preparation (NOP), DOGGR announced that it will evaluate the potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of fracking on a regional basis. The EIR will separately evaluate potential environmental impacts in each of DOGGR’s six administrative districts: Cypress, Ventura, Orcutt, Bakersfield, Coalinga and Sacramento. The public is invited to provide comments on the scope and content of the EIR. DOGGR also will hold scoping meetings on the EIR at various locations around the state over the next two months. Public comments in response to the NOP must be submitted to DOGGR by 5:00 pm January 16, 2014.

Next Steps

SB 4 established a framework for regulating fracking in California, which is viewed by many as the strictest in the nation. While DOGGR has undertaken many significant steps in the development of these regulations, substantial uncertainty remains as to what the contours of this final program will be.

In addition to the regulatory and CEQA process described above, DOGGR also announced in its Senate Bill 4 Implementation Plan (Nov. 15, 2013) that it will undertake the following actions:

Adopt Interagency Agreements: In October 2013, DOGGR began contacting California regulatory agencies with responsibilities under SB 4 to adopt formal interagency agreements concerning their authority, responsibility and other matters. These interagency agreements are to be entered into by January 1, 2015.

Develop Group Permitting Procedure: In January 2014, DOGGR will convene workshops to discuss Governor Brown’s directive that the fracking permit program should provide for group permitting based on factors such as known geologic conditions and environmental impacts. DOGGR will develop a proposed group permitting regulatory proposal by March 2014 with a goal of issuing the group permitting regulations as soon as possible after the effective date of the fracking regulations.

Initiate Scientific Study: In December 2013, the Natural Resources Agency will initiate an independent scientific study “of well stimulation treatments, including hydraulic fracturing and acid well stimulation treatments.” The Agency is currently developing the scope of the study. This study is to be completed by January 1, 2015.

It is anticipated that each of these efforts has the potential to significantly affect the final outcome of the process and interested parties would be well advised to closely monitor and participate in the various processes.

加州向压裂作业监管迈进了一步

2013年11月15日,加州资源保护部下属油气监察局(“油气监察局”)采取数项措施,旨在推进加州有关水力压裂作业监管立法的制定工作。这是油气监察局继加州州长Jerry Brown于2013年9月20日签署州参议员第4号法案(SB4法案)之后采取的配套措施。SB4旨在对加州境内的压裂作业和其它“油气井增产措施”进行监管。油气监察局同时发布三项公告,宣布其最新举措:

  • 油气监察局发布法规征求意见稿,法规预定自2015年1月1日起施行(公开征求意见截止期限为2014年1月14日下午5时)
  • 油气监察局发布通知,称其将准备一项环境影响报告(“环境影响报告”)“对加州境内现有以及未来潜在油气增产措施的影响进行评估”(公开征求意见截止期限为2014年1月16日下午5时)
  • 油气监察局公布《州参议院第4号法案实施计划》,为SB4监管体系的实施设定里程碑日期,包括:

    • 油气监察局将于2013年12月13日签发应急过渡法规,对2014年期间的压裂作业进行监管(无正式征求意见期限,但是有关方面或许希望尽快提出意见);

    • 油气监察局将于2014年3月之前,发布草案法规,就油气井增产项目的集团授权程序进行说明。]

这些举措将对加州未来的压裂作业产生重大影响。

压裂法规草案主要条款概述

根据SB4法案的设想(关于SB4法案的更多信息请参见此篇文章和此篇文章),油气监察局的法规草案制定了油气井增产措施许可项目,旨在确保油气井增产措施的安全开展并确保详细的公开披露。法规澄清了其适用范围为全部油气井增产作业,包括水力压裂和为增产而使用的多数酸化工艺技术,但不适用于油气井常规作业或地下灌注项目。法规草案的主要条款现概述如下:

  • 申请要求/液剂披露。作业方未经油气监察局许可不得进行压裂作业或其它油气井增产工艺。许可申请书内必须包括法规所列的26项信息内容,包括:(a)井眼轨迹;(b)诱导裂缝尺寸和位置;(c)拟注压裂液的预期体积、流量和压力;(d)压裂液内所含每项化学成分的名称与浓度;(e)油气井增产半径分析,其内必须识别附近所有水井和其它井体;(f)一项水管理计划;(g)所产生废弃物估算以及一项处置计划;和(h)地区水利局出具的证书,证明有地下水监控计划对油气井进行监控。如SB4法案公共资源规则第3160(j)条所规定,作业方如在初始申请书内提出商业秘密保护要求,其可主张增产液的化学组成为商业秘密。如果商业秘密主张被证明成立,其虽然仍需向油气监察局提供所需信息,但所提供信息不会被对外公布。法规草案规定油气监察局可灵活批准作为“单一项目”组成部分的多个申请。
  • 公告。作业方在开始压裂作业前必须提前至少30天向油气井井口1500英尺半径范围内的所有业主和住户提供一份油气监察局许可证复印件。此项通知必须由作业方委托的一家独立第三方作出。此独立第三方必须向油气监察局提供被通知到的人员名单以及通知方式。
  • 压裂作业前对油气井的安全完整性进行评估。在开始压裂作业或其它油气井增产作业之前,作业方应负责确保油气井能够承受拟定的增产活动,并且油气井增产液局限在一定空间内。法规要求除非经油气监察局豁免,否则作业方须进行特定试验,证明油气井的安全完整性。此外,作业方亦须收集目标油气井周围地质结构和其它井体信息。且必须建立压裂液流动模型,以确保压裂液不会扩散到拟定区域之外。作业方还须在开始增产作业之前的24小时之内对油气井进行压力试验。
  • 压裂作业期间的监测。压裂作业期间的监测。在进行压裂作业期间,作业方须监测灌注速度和压力。如果压力超过列明的限值或作业方怀疑出现裂痕,则必须停止压裂作业。作业方随后必须进行诊断试验,并通知油气监察局,邀请其见证有关试验。如果实验结果表明有裂痕,作业方必须向油气监察局和地区水利局提供油气井和裂痕信息。
  • 压裂液的储存与处理。法规要求作业方:(a)根据现有法规“二次控制要求”对压裂液和其它增产液进行储存;(b)在泄漏应急计划内列明所有液剂;(c)在容器(而非地坑)内存放液剂;以及在发生泄漏情况下(d)通知“有关泄漏处理单位”以及油气监察局。
  • 压裂后的监测。在对油气井进行压裂作业或其它增产作业处理之后,作业方仍需负责对油气井的持续生产进行监测,确保油气井未出现故障。在最初30日期间内,必须每隔两天监测并向油气监察局报告生产压力以及所产生油气量和水量。随后必须继续每月报告生产压力。环空压力必须每年报告或在超过列明的特定值后立即报告。法规亦要求安装减压阀,但是如果作业方能够证明不需要减压阀,油气监察局可豁免该项要求。如果安装了减压阀,则发生的所有泄压情况都必须立即报告油气监察局。
  • 压裂后的披露与报告。在完成油气井压裂作业后的60天内,作业方须向化学品披露登记中心登记油气井和压裂作业有关信息,包括:(a)油气井名称与位置;(b)压裂液每项添加剂的名称、浓度与作用;(c)压裂液每项化学成分的名称、CAS编号(如有)和浓度;(d)使用及回收的液剂总体积;以及(e)压裂作业中用水的水源、体积和处理。如前所述,与增产液成分有关的信息可作为商业秘密予以保护而不对外公开披露。同时,在完成油气井压裂作业后的60天内,作业方必须向油气监察局提交一份报告,说明压裂作业情况、所遇到的压力以及实际作业与预期之间的差异。作业方必须特别注明在压裂作业开始后该区域发生的2.0级以上的任何地震活动。

预期,法规草案将会收到几万条(如果不是几十万条)意见。油气监察局已表示在收到公开意见反馈之后,将于2014年春天晚些时候公布第二稿法规草案。法规草案未明确在SB4法案生效后但在法规通过之前的期间内如何对油气井增产项目进行审批。

应急过渡法规

自2014年1月1日起,作业方须在进行任何受监管的油气井增产措施之前证明其符合SB4法案的明确规定。但是,证书的规定内容以及证明程序仍不明确。为了解决这些问题,油气监察局宣布其将行使应急监管职权,为2014年过渡期的授权程序制定有关规定。预期,应急法规将确定过渡期所将监管的增产措施类别,就必要的地下水监测提供指南,并制定公共披露要求。由于这些规定将依据油气监察局的应急职权通过,将无公开征求意见期限。鉴于法规对明年的运营具有重大意义,公众如有利害关系牵涉其中的,或许希望在法规公布之前提出建议,或在公布后提出意见。

环境影响报告的准备

SB4法案指令油气监察局准备全州范围内的环境影响报告,就压裂作业和其它油气井增产作业的潜在环境影响向公众提供“详细信息”。油气监察局于2013年11月15日作出准备通知,宣布其将在地区范围内评估压裂作业的潜在直接、间接和累积影响。环境影响报告将分别对油气监察局管辖的六个行政区域(包括Cypress、Ventura、Orcutt、 Bakersfield、Coalinga和 Sacramento)的潜在环境影响进行评估。公众可就环境影响报告的内容和范围提出意见。油气监察局亦将在随后两个月内在不同地方就环境影响报告召集范围确定会议。公众有关意见必须在2014年1月16日下午5时之前提交给油气监察局。

后续工作

SB4法案为加州压裂作业的监管制定了框架,很多人认为该框架是全美最为严格的。虽然油气监察局在法规制定方面迈出了意义深远的步伐,但对于最终体系的轮廓尚存在很大的不确定性。

除了上述监管和CEQA程序之外,油气监察局亦在其《参议院第4号法案实施计划》(2013年11月15日)内宣布其将采取以下行动:

  • 通过部门间协议:2013年10月,油气监察局开始与SB4法案项下负有职责的加州有关监管部门进行联系,就授权范围、职责和其它事宜形成正式的部门间协议。上述部门间协议应在2015年1月1日之前签订。
  • 制定集团许可程序:2014年1月,油气监察局将召开座谈会,讨论Brown州长有关压裂许可程序内应允许基于已知地理条件和环境影响进行集团许可的指令。油气监察局将于2014年3月之前提出集团许可监管方案,并计划在压裂规定生效后尽快发布集团许可规定。
  • 启动科学研究:2013年12月,自然资源局将启动独立科学研究,对“油气井增产措施,包括水力压裂和酸化油气井增产措施”进行研究。自然资源局目前正制定该项研究的范围。该项研究将于2015年1月1日之前完成。

预期,上述每项工作都将潜在对该程序的最终结果产生重大影响,利害关系方最好应密切关注并参与各项程序。

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