Office of Enforcement
The Department of Conservation’s Renewal Plan has sharpened the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources’ (DOGGR) focus on protecting the public and the environment in its oversight of the oil, gas, and geothermal industries. Recently approved legislation and funding for staff, in addition to some of the strongest regulations in the nation, have significantly strengthened DOGGR’s authority and created a new Office of Enforcement to enhance existing enforcement efforts and ensure industry operators comply with requirements.
The Office of Enforcement’s role is to work closely with Division staff to identify, verify, and take enforcement actions to bring violators back into compliance with the law. Violations can range from minor issues such as missing records to more significant issues such as failing to perform safety equipment tests, spills, or falsifying records. Enforcement and Division staff will assess evidence and the severity of the impacts, and, as appropriate, seek civil or criminal action that can result in fines or jail time, respectively. Depending on the severity of the violation, an operator can be assessed up to $25,000 per day per incident (geothermal violations are limited to $5,000 per day).
Collected penalty funds can be used to clean up and permanently seal deserted wells, such as this
one in Echo Park in Los Angeles County, to protect the environment and keep the public safe.
Fines collected from oil and gas operators will go into an Oil and Gas Environmental Remediation Account for resolving impacts caused by noncompliance. The State Oil and Gas Supervisor also has the option of allowing operators to spend up to 50 percent of fines on supplemental environmental projects (known as SEPs) to benefit communities impacted by oil and gas production.
The enforcement staff consists of a senior oil and gas engineer, several associate oil and gas engineers, two attorneys, and a legal assistant.
Here are some
recent orders issued by the State Oil and Gas Supervisor. The under-development Well Statewide Tracking and Reporting (WellSTAR) database system will, in the near future, include information about enforcement actions and a portal allowing members of the public to file complaints about suspected violations.