Oil giants sell thousands of California wells, raising worries about future liability
The oil and gas industry said it sold millions of pounds of fossil fuels to California during a decade of the state’s energy boom, and that its record of transparency ensures trust in new developments.
The California oil and gas industry said it sold millions of pounds of fossil fuels to the state of California during a decade of the state’s energy boom, and that its record of transparency ensures trust in new developments.
But the industry also warned that a new report by a California watchdog could raise questions about the future of oil and gas development in California — a concern that drew support from state and federal regulators of the oil and gas industry.
A three-year investigation by the California Public Interest Research Group (CPUIG) has found that the oil and gas companies behind controversial drilling projects in Kern and Sonoma counties have routinely misled regulators about risks to public health and the environment.
The report also found that oil producers in those counties, who stand to lose their permit for a well or be forced to abandon a project, did not disclose their conflicts of interest, and that they received millions in public funding from local governments.
“These oil companies knew they were breaking the law, and they were willing to do so, and that’s what they get away with,” said Andrew Wigand, who heads the CPUIG and is also a senior fellow at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “It’s really a situation of corruption or malfeasance.”
The CPUIG report, to be released Thursday, followed years of litigation between the CPUIG and many of the oil and gas companies involved in the case, which the group started in 2009. In 2012 and 2014, it won millions of dollars in monetary and injunctive relief from the state and federal regulatory agencies.
The CPUIG case is unusual, however, because regulators from the CPUC, the state’s independent power commission, the local utility district and the California Energy Commission, sued the industry to stop the groups from investigating their activities. They argued the groups had no standing to bring suit. The CPUC and the CEC agreed that the groups do have standing, but said that the CPUIG has a financial and reputational interest in the companies