Environment & Science

California gets new enforcement arm for oil and gas regulation

Alan Walker, petroleum engineer at Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, explains new inner tubing at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility near Porter Ranch on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. The tubing is one of several safety enhancements being made at the facility following a massive natural-gas leak at the facility in 2015.
Alan Walker, petroleum engineer at Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, explains new inner tubing at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility near Porter Ranch on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. The tubing is one of several safety enhancements being made at the facility following a massive natural-gas leak at the facility in 2015.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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The state agency that regulates oil and gas in California is gaining a new enforcement arm this week, capable of issuing big new fines. The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, also known as DOGGR, has often been criticized as being too close to the industry.

DOGGR’s new Office of Enforcement will be separate from the agency’s permit issuing arm.  That’s a change.
 
Attorney Patricia Oliver has spent years on court cases by people who claim injuries from oil and gas violations, including the Aliso Canyon gas well blowout near Porter Ranch.
 
She says a separate arm is better, but she’d prefer, "a separate agency enforcing so that any bias that develops in the permitting process would have a complete second look by an enforcement agency."
 
In 2106 DOGGR got the power to issue civil fines up to $25-thousand dollars per day per violation. Earlier this year, the agency fined the operator of the Richfield Oil Field in Orange County $12-point-5 million dollars.