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Published on February 26, 2024
EPA Imposes $109,000 Fine on California Energy Firms for Safe Drinking Water Act Violations in TupmanSource: Google Street View

In a decisive move to protect the tap, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has slapped California Resources Corporation (CRC) and its subsidiary, Elk Hills Power LLC, with a $109,000 fine for not playing by the rules of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Tupman, California. These energy players were caught red-handed mishandling their underground injection operations at the Elk Hills Power Plant, proving that cutting corners on environmental protocols doesn't pay.

The penalty, a drop in the bucket compared to the potential cost of tainted groundwater reserves, stems from the firms skirting permit mandates in the EPA's Underground Injection Control Program. "Facilities that include underground injection in their operations must comply with all permit conditions to protect underground sources of drinking water,” Martha Guzman, EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator, emphasized in a public slap on the wrist. As part of the deal, CRC and Elk Hills Power have to cough up cash and beef up the local Buttonwillow County Water District's infrastructure with a supplemental environmental project worth $282,000.

It's no secret that playing fast and loose with injection practices can bring down the hammer, especially when it comes to safeguarding our H2O. The EPA's watchdog routine includes sniffing around injection well operations, categorized into six types. With their Class V injection wells, Elk Hills Power is tasked to bury non-hazardous wastewater without mucking up the Upper Tulare Formation - a source of drinking water. That means keeping their injections below the maximum pressure allowed, and now, they'll have to toe the line even more with reduced rates, ceased injections when limits are hit, extra paperwork, and a strict compliance plan.

CRC and Elk Hills Power's supplemental environmental project is poised to deliver tangible goodies to the Buttonwillow County Water District. They've agreed to plug up an idle drinking water well, tear down a rust-bucket of a 40,000-gallon metal tank, and set up a trusty backup generator for a critical drinking water well. This isn't just a win for the environment; it's a direct upgrade to the community's very lifeline – its water supply, as detailed in the public notice provided by the EPA.