East Bay Oil Field to Shut Down Following Local Pushback

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An oil field located just outside of Livermore, shown in the photo, will be shutting down following pushback from residents and environmental groups.  (iStock)

Alameda County's lone oil field will close up shop after nearly five decades of production, following a county decision to deny its permits.

The field, located just outside of Livermore, produces about 30 barrels of oil a day and is one of two remaining oil producers in Northern California.

E&B Natural Resources, which purchased the oil field in 2007, had reapplied for two 10-year conditional use permits in January that were approved in May.

The decision was challenged by two environmental advocacy groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Livermore Eco Watchdog, because of perceived risks to Livermore's groundwater. Accompanying the appeal was a signed letter endorsed by more than 20 public health and environmental groups.

"If California wants to be a leader in fighting climate change, it makes no sense for us to continue approving oil projects like this around the state," says Hollin Kretzmann, senior attorney at the center.


The groups' appeal was brought before the Board of Supervisors last week in a hearing that ran for more than three hours. The board ultimately ruled against approving the permits in a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Nate Miley abstaining.

"I think the final vote, 4-0, reflects widespread opposition from people from all parts of the county," says Kretzmann. "The board prioritized the community rather than the profits of the oil company and they should be applauded for standing up to the oil industry and putting their constituents first."

E&B, based in Bakersfield, uses a method known as waterflooding to extract oil from the ground. The process pumps water down one well, pushing the oil up through a different well.

"Local governments can make a huge difference in the fight against climate change by reducing fossil fuel production and moving us toward renewable energy," says Kretzmann. "Alameda County has shown bold decision-making and it can be a model for other cities and counties."

A spokesperson for E&B called the decision "disappointing," pointing to a recommendation to approve the permits from the county planning department and a green light from the local zoning board. He also implied that the fight isn't over.

"E&B Natural Resources will continue to explore a mutually agreeable resolution with the County on our conditional use permits," spokesman Ted Cordova wrote in a statement emailed to KQED.

E&B has been cited for safety violations over the years, including a 2015 fine for failing to report a spill and disposing of the contaminated soil without testing for toxic chemicals.

Also that year, E&B agreed to an $85,000 settlement with the county for mixing sludge with non-hazardous soils. At the time, the company argued that the violation occurred before E&B took over operations.

Two state agencies, the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the Water Resources Board, have said that the groundwater beneath the oil field is not suitable for drinking because of its high mineral and salt content.

Kretzmann takes issue with that.

"Their own documents show that the water could be treated and used for other types of use," he says. "The water should be preserved for future use -- especially given the fact that California is likely to experience more severe droughts in the future."