BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

          |                                                                 |
          |                   Senator Fran Pavley, Chair                    |
          |                    2011-2012 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |

          BILL NO: SB 1146                   HEARING DATE: April 10, 2012
          AUTHOR: Pavley                     URGENCY: No
          VERSION: April 9, 2012             CONSULTANT: Dennis O'Connor
          DUAL REFERRAL: Environmental QualityFISCAL: Yes
          SUBJECT: Wells: Reports: Public Availability
          1.In 1949, to help prevent groundwater pollution caused by 
            improperly constructed water wells, the California legislature 
            first required well drillers to file a well completion report 
            with the State of California for each well drilled. 

            Well completion reports, aka drillers' logs or well logs, are 
            a record of the drilling and construction of the well.  Well 
            logs provide the record necessary to demonstrate that the well 
            was properly constructed, modified, or decommissioned, and 
            further provides the necessary construction detail should the 
            well need to be modified at some later date.  They include, 
            among other things, the location of the well, the depth of the 
            well, the type of soils encountered at each elevation as 
            drilling, depth to water, etc.

            In 1965, the legislature declared that "the people of the 
            state have a primary interest in the location, construction, 
            maintenance, abandonment, and destruction of water wells, 
            which activities directly affect the quality and purity of 
            underground waters."  In doing so, the legislature expanded 
            the well drilling laws to (1) authorize DWR to establish 
            regulations governing the proper construction of water wells, 
            (2) require all well completion reports be filed with DWR, and 
            (3) restricted access to those reports to government agencies.

            The legislative record does not give any insight as to why the 
            logs were made confidential.  The conjecture is that they were 
            made confidential at the request of the well drillers.  Many 
            well drillers consider the information in the well logs to be 
            proprietary.  For example, let's say Driller A has just 


            drilled a well, and someone wants to have another well to be 
            drilled a short distance away.  Driller A, by virtue of 
            knowing the soil conditions in the immediate vicinity, would 
            have a competitive advantage over any other driller.

          2.The Information Practices Act of 1977, among other things, 
            prohibits any state agency from disclosing any personal 
            information "in a manner that would link the information 
            disclosed to the individual to whom it pertains," with certain 
            exceptions.  The Act defines "personal information" as "any 
            information that is maintained by an agency that identifies or 
            describes an individual, including, but not limited to, his or 
            her name, social security number, physical description, home 
            address, home telephone number, education, financial matters, 
            and medical or employment history."



          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill would:
         Make well logs available to the public.
         Require persons requesting a report to do so on a form 
           identifying the name and address of the requestor, and the 
           reason for the request.
         Require the release of the well logs to comply with the privacy 
           and other provisions of the Information Practices Act.
         Require a disclosure statement regarding the appropriate use of 
           the data.
         Authorize DWR to charge a fee for providing the well logs.

          According to the author, "Every time a water well is drilled, 
          the driller is required by law to provide DWR a well completion 
          report with the State of California for each well drilled."

          "These reports contain critical information for groundwater 
          managers, consulting hydrologists, academics, and others 
          interested in the geologic and hydrologic characteristics of 
          groundwater basins.  Unfortunately, those who would benefit from 
          this information cannot have access to it. 
           Farmers can't know how deep they need to drill their wells.  
           Academics cannot develop sophisticated maps and models without 
            the sponsorship of the government. 
           Local community activists cannot gain the information they 
            need to better protect drinking water quality of disadvantaged 
           The list goes on."

          "The Governor directed DWR to work with me 'to ensure 
          responsible public access to well logs.'  SB 1146 is the result 
          of those negotiations with DWR, along with the Department of 
          Health Services (DHS) and CalEMA, which is California's official 
          homeland security agency.  This bill addresses and resolves the 
          various security concerns raised by DHS and CalEMA, and I 
          understand that DWR is now in the process of getting a SUPPORT 
          position approved through the Governor's Office."

          According to the City of Lakewood, "We oppose the bill due to 
          the following reasons:
           "Well reports contain detailed information not otherwise 
            available to the public.  Providing the information could 
            result in devastating consequences to the health and safety of 
            people in this state.
           SB 1146 opens up the floodgates to everyone and anyone who 


            requests the reports, regardless of qualifications and 

          "The bill contradicts existing state and federal polices and 
          would increase safety risks to public water supplies.  For the 
          above reasons, the City of Lakewood opposes SB 1146."

           Prior Legislation:   Last year, Senator Pavley carried SB 263 to 
          make well completion reports available to the public.  To 
          address the opposition's concerns, the bill was amended on the 
          Assembly floor to restrict access to persons with specific 
          qualifications and added penalty provisions for disclosing 
          information.  The Governor vetoed that bill because of those 
          provisions, and directed DWR to work with the author "to ensure 
          responsible public access to well logs."

           What Is Responsible Public Access?   The Governor's direction to 
          ensure responsible public access to well logs raises the 
          question, how do we determine what responsible public access is? 
           Three ways may be to look to what other states do, look to see 
          how California deals with similar issues, and look to what local 
          water agencies do.  
            What Do Other States Do?   No other western state restricts 
            access to well logs as in California.  Indeed, 10 of 11 
            western states provide internet access to well logs.  This 
            bill does not propose to place the information on the internet 
            - it merely propose to make the information available upon 
            request, such as in Wyoming.

           How Does California Deal With Similar Issues?   Every time an 
            oil or gas well is drilled, the driller must provide a copy of 
            the well log to the Department of Conservation.  Those logs 
            are deemed public records for purposes of the California 
            Public Records Act.  (There are exceptions, logs for 
            exploratory wells, for example, are considered confidential 
            for a specific period of time.)  The Department of 
            Conservation provides public access to those logs through a 
            GIS map on the internet.

            What Do Other Water Agencies Do?   A review of urban water 
            management plans and capital improvement plans shows that over 
            160 water agencies have published the location of their wells, 
            usually on maps, but sometimes the actual addresses.  This 
            represents locations of over 2,200 water system wells, of 
            which the author's staff has located 96 percent through online 



            Adjudicated groundwater basins have court appointed 
            watermasters, a number of whom have published maps showing the 
            location of production wells within their jurisdiction.  For 
            example, the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster published a 
            fairly detailed 2008 map showing the location of 99 active 
            production wells.

            The drilling of a new water system well is usually a project 
            subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  
            CEQA, among other things, requires the disclosure of the 
            location of the project.  A review of CEQA Clearinghouse's 
            online database shows the location of over 70 wells.

           What Would The Fee Cover?   It is not clear how large the fee for 
          a copy of a well log would be.  However, the fee would likely 
          include a share of the following:
           Costs to create and maintain a copy of the log that redacts 
            personal information pursuant to the Information Practices Act 
            of 1977.
           Costs of duplicating the redacted well log.
           Cost to develop and disseminate the disclosure statement 
            regarding the appropriate use of the data.
           Costs to develop and maintain the form identifying the name 
            and address of the requestor, and the reason for the request.
           Any additional administrative costs associated with 
            implementing this bill.


          California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
          Clean Water Action
          Community Water Center
          East Bay Municipal Utility District
          Groundwater Resources Association
          Planning and Conservation League
          Sierra Club California
          Sonoma County Water Agency
          The Nature Conservancy



          California Police Chiefs Association
          City of Lakewood
          City of Torrance
          San Gabriel Valley Water Association