BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Fran Pavley, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:            SB 20           Hearing Date:    March 24,  
          |Author:    |Pavley                 |           |                 |
          |Version:   |December 1, 2014                                     |
          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
          |Consultant:|Dennis O'Connor                                      |
          |           |                                                     |
                   Subject:  Wells:  reports:  public availability

          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 for each well drilled. 

          Two years later, in 1951, the legislature enacted AB 1512  
          (Dickey) which restricted access to well completion reports to  
          "to governmental agencies for use in making studies."  According  
          to a May 21, 1951 letter from the Director of Public Works to  
          Governor Warren, it was because the information in the reports  
          "is regarded by some well drillers as part of their stock in  
          trade."  That is, for competitive reasons.

          While the statute has been amended a number of times in the  
          intervening 60 plus years, the restriction to access has largely  
          stayed the same.

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill would:
           Make well completion reports 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.


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           Require a disclosure statement regarding the appropriate use  
            of the data.
           Authorize DWR to charge a fee for providing the well  
            completion reports.

          According to the author, "Every time a water well is drilled,  
          the driller is required by law to provide DWR a well completion  
          report, also known as a well log."

          "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.'  This bill 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  

          A coalition of agricultural interests asserts "Well logs are  
          already required to be submitted to the Department of Water  
          resources and are available to the appropriate public agencies.   
          For example, groundwater management agencies already have access  
          and utilize this information to better manage their groundwater  
          locally.  We understand the importance of managing our scarce  
          groundwater resources and are fully supportive of local efforts  
          to do just that.  We believe the well log data is available to  
          those entities that have a genuine need to evaluate and utilize  
          it for the benefit of managing our groundwater supplies.  No  
          beneficial purpose could be gained by making this confidential  
          data available to the public.  We believe this measure will only  


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          assist those trolling for lawsuits."

           What is a well completion report?  Also known as drillers' logs  
          or well logs, well completion reports are a record of the  
          drilling and construction of the well.  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.

           Why are they required?   It is important that wells be properly  
          constructed, modified, or decommissioned.  Well completion  
          reports 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. 

           What other uses do they have?   Data in the reports can be used  
          to construct detailed underground aquifer maps.  These maps are  
          critical to developing and implementing groundwater management  
          plans.  For example, such data can be used to find the best  
          possible locations groundwater banking, identify key recharge  
          areas, and to better avoid impaired groundwater quality.

           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.  

           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 maps.


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          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.

           Prior Year Efforts.   In 2011, 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 in the well log.  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."

          The next year, Senator Pavley introduced SB 1146.  That bill was  
          the result of negotiations with DWR, the Department of Health  
          Services, and CalEMA, "to ensure responsible public access to  
          well logs."  That bill failed on the Senate Floor (19-16).

           Double-referral  The Rules Committee referred this bill to both  
          the Committee on Natural Resources and Water and to the  
          Committee on Environmental Quality.  Therefore, if this bill  


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          passes this committee, it will be referred to the Committee on  
          Environmental Quality, which will consider the issues within  
          their jurisdiction.  


          California League of Conservation Voters
          California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
          California Water Impact Network
          Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
          Clean Water Action
          Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation
          Community Water Center
          Defenders of Wildlife
          East Bay Municipal Utility District
          Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
          Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
          Environmental Water Caucus
          Food & Water Watch
          Karuk Tribe
          Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
          National Parks Conservation Association
          Natural Resources Defense Council
          North County Watch
          Planning and Conservation League
          Sierra Club California
          Southern California Watershed Alliance
          Wholly H@O

          California Chamber of Commerce
          California Citrus Mutual
          California Cotton ginners Association
          California Cotton Growers Association
          California Dairies, Inc.


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          California Farm Bureau Federation
          California fresh Fruit Association
          California League of Food Processors
          Kings River Conservation District
          Kings River Water Association
          Nisei Farmers League
          Valley Ag Water Coalition
          Western Agricultural Processors Association
          Western Growers Association
          Western Plan Health Association

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