AB 356 by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, requiring groundwater monitoring plans for underground injection projects, was heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. The bill was sent to the suspense file for further review.

This week, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources admitted that even more oil and gas wells are injecting into aquifers that did not go through a proper aquifer exemption process; and identified 30 more oilfield injection sites as high-priority potential risks to nearby water wells. DOGGR is continuing to allow further wastewater injections in those wells until more testing is done.

“These events underscore the need to reform California’s Underground Injection Control Program (UIC),” Williams said. “Mistakes and lax oversight of this program have harmed aquifers that could have been used for a beneficial use.”

AB 356 will reform California’s UIC program to ensure thorough vetting of aquifers prior to exempting them, annual project reviews, and groundwater monitoring to protect California’s groundwater from potential contamination.

“AB 356 is urgently needed to protect groundwater in the midst of this extreme drought,” said Andrew Grinberg of Clean Water Action. “This common sense bill would put drinking water first by ensuring that oil companies can no longer inject toxic chemicals into high quality aquifers, and by requiring monitoring of water quality threatened by oil and gas activities. After decades of mismanagement, the time to reform the UIC program is now.”

The Assembly Appropriations Committee will decide which legislation will come off suspense and be sent to the Assembly floor next week.

— Lourdes Jimenez is the chief of staff for Assemblyman Das Williams.