The industrial nature of oil and gas extraction means that drilling sites can be responsible for a variety of adverse effects, such as bad odors, loud noises, bright lights, industrial traffic, and vibrations. To ensure that these activities are conducted in accordance with regulations, Environmental Health specialists inspect underground storage tanks, monitoring equipment, and compliance documents of UST systems. Unfortunately, the City of Orange County has had a fragmented approach to overseeing oil and gas drilling sites in the past, leading to inadequate oversight. Figure 5 shows the large number of oil and gas exploration activities that occurred in the mid-20th century.
However, the City lacks complete and reliable information on these sites, making it difficult to facilitate coordination between departments or make timely, data-based political and operational decisions. If DOGGR (Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources) cannot identify the operator of a deserted well or if an operator goes bankrupt, DOGGR can access funds in its oil and gas environmental remediation account to plug and properly abandon those “orphan wells” that pose a danger to life, health, water quality, wildlife, or natural resources. Because municipal departments have not effectively maintained or monitored bonds and many of the drilling sites were established decades ago, older wells may no longer be covered by active bonds due to the insolvency of bail bond companies. To ensure compliance with regulations, local jurisdictions such as Culver City and Simi Valley require all oil and gas well operators to maintain general commercial liability insurance. Municipal departments are also responsible for a wide range of activities related to oil and gas drilling sites. Having a comprehensive and reliable source of information related to oil and gas drilling sites is essential for city officials to be able to make informed political and operational decisions in a timely manner.
Periodic reviews of approval conditions at all drilling sites are necessary to protect residents from public health risks, effectively use emerging technologies, and consider surrounding land uses. Overseeing oil and gas drilling sites is a critical function that affects the health and quality of life of residents.