Best’ Practices?

In a recent letter to the editor concerning Aera Energy’s plans to drill 296 oil wells in Cat Canyon, Aera’s spokesperson states that “ … California regulations and industry best practices are specifically designed to protect groundwater … ”

In truth, these “best practices” allow for the dumping of wastewater from the recovery of oil into unlined, open pits, aka “percolation ponds,” where the substances can seep through the earth into the groundwater. This practice has been banned in nearly every state in the U.S. — including Texas — but not in California.

As a result, oil from Aera’s Belridge oilfield leaked into the groundwater of the Starrh Family Farm in Kern County, where they grow 6,000 acres of pistachios, cotton, almonds, and alfalfa.

Starrh sued Aera, whose lawyer stated in court that “only” 43 million barrels of tainted water crossed onto Starrh’s property; considering that some 1.6 billion barrels had flowed into the groundwater before that, “It’s like adding a drop of water.” Just to be clear, that drop of water translates into more than 672,000,000,000 gallons of toxic water.

Starrh was awarded $8.6 million; estimates say that it would take $2 billion to flush the toxins from the soil. [After appeals and re-trials lasting 13 years, the suit settled for an undisclosed amount.]

Since the lawsuit, Aera’s ponds next to Starrh’s land have been drained. The company claims they have moved away from the use of ponds and have “made efforts” to install monitoring wells; however, the Starrhs’ groundwater remains contaminated, and the oil industry is still dumping wastewater into hundreds of pits all over the state.

I would not drink water from those nearby wells, would you?

Write your supervisors and tell them to put the safety of our county ahead of the profits of the oil industry.


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