State acknowledges major failures in regulating L.A. Basin oil production

Steve Bohlen

State oil and gas supervisor Steve Bohlen, pictured in March, says his agency is attempting to tighten enforcement.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California’s oil regulatory agency acknowledged in a report Thursday that it has consistently failed to oversee oil operations in the Los Angeles basin.

A report issued Thursday by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources found ‘inconsistent permitting, monitoring and enforcement of well construction and operation,” in the Cypress office of the agency.

The internal audit concluded that:

-- Since 2007, the majority of oil projects in the L.A. area had not been subject to a required annual review.

-- Seventy-eight percent of the projects in the audit did not undergo a required Area of Review, a comprehensive geologic and technical analysis of the oil field involved. Only five projects had undergone an AOR in the last five years.

-- Well records were often incomplete or missing. At least 47% of the files did not contain information about well casing that is vital to understanding well integrity.

-- To complete reports, regulators were relying on self-reported information from operators rather than on information the agency could verify itself. 

-- Testing and methods to ensure that fluids injected into the ground didn’t contaminate aquifers or drinking water sources are inadequate and require updating.

Steve Bohlen, the state oil and gas supervisor, acknowledged that the report uncovered “systemic problems” but added that similar reviews are proof that the troubled agency is attempting to tighten its enforcement.

“We dug deeply and left no stone unturned,” Bohlen said.

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