Taking the position it needs more specific instructions from regulators, Chevron has filed an appeal of a state order calling on the company to "take all measures" to prevent further flows of oil and water at California's largest and most visible petroleum-related accident in years.
The appeal it filed Monday with the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is not aimed at allowing the company to walk away from the situation, Chevron said, but rather to ask the agency to state exactly what it expects the oil producer to do and what information to provide.
"The purpose of the notice of appeal," Chevron said by email, "is to clarify specific requirements in the order related to the meaning of certain terms and phrases, and the timing and scope of requested information."
"Chevron has been working and will continue to work in collaboration with state regulators to resolve this issue and take measures to prevent similar situations in the future. We are working with DOGGR to address the issues outlined in the order," the company wrote.
About 1 million gallons of black fluid have come up from the ground near McKittrick during a series of leaks first reported in mid-May. Roughly a third of that volume represents oil, meaning about 8,000 barrels of crude spilled out in what the industry calls a "surface expression."
Chevron has begun cleaning up the oil as it works with state regulators to determine what caused the leak and how to prevent it from happening again.
On July 12, DOGGR ordered Chevron to do everything possible to keep oil from continuing to come to the surface at the site of the leak in the Cymric Oil Field in eastern Kern. At the time, the agency's acting director asserted the company had not yet done everything in its power to halt the flow, which has since resumed and stopped again.
The order, which followed two notices of violation filed by DOGGR against Chevron, also told the company to meet with agency officials to discuss the leak and to turn over certain data and information.
Chevron's appeal states it wants DOGGR to clarify what actions is expects the company to take. It also says it is meeting with the agency to talk about the situation.
Responding to the data request in the agency's order, Chevron said it is "not opposed" to providing information but that the order does not adequately explain "the scope or the timing" of the request.
"In order to assess and respond to (the order) … Chevron needs to understand the scope of the requested information and the return date for that information," the company stated in the appeal.
Environmental activists alarmed by the uncontrolled releases expressed dismay at the appeal.
Sierra Club California, in a news release, characterized Chevron's appeal as an attempt to avoid accountability for the accident. It said the company "Chevron has refused to take meaningful action to stop" the leak.
"Every major oil company is linked to a disastrous oil spill — it's par for the course," club Director Kathryn Phillips stated in the release. "This time, Chevron's reckless actions have spilled over 900,000 gallons in Kern County. To make matters even worse, Chevron tried to keep the crude oil disaster quiet. Chevron must be held accountable for this spill that has been flowing since May."
Gov. Gavin Newsom toured the site of the accident and concluded Chevron was making progress cleaning up the area. He said there was no evidence the environment was harmed as a result of the leak but he said it did endanger people working in the area.
An earlier version of this story misstated the volume of oil and water that has leaked from the site near McKittrick.