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Water & Wells, Gas Gouging

At this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting (March 15), a series of recommendations were discussed concerning the ongoing drought and related activities involving property owners selling water to water haulers from existing wells or drilling new wells for commercial water sales. The objective is to create some workable rules and regulations to oversee and exercise more control over water at both the start and end uses. One of the problems are illegal weed grows that rely on delivered water from either illegal or unlicensed sources.

I worked with other people involved in County water issues, including water districts, ranchers, farmers, law enforcement, environmental health, and water haulers. We met with Supervisors John Haschak and Glenn McGourty who head up the BOS Drought Committee. Altogether we met four times (via Zoom) starting in late September, and were able to come up with a set of recommendations that are reasonable, and just as important, workable. It’s an example of how sometimes committees actually get something productive done.

No action was taken by the Supes on the proposed package of rules and regs, as Supervisor Ted Williams wanted more information on the role water haulers play in the delivery process.

As the district manager of a local government water utility whose operations include selling water to water haulers, I’ll be providing the BOS with any and all information they might night need on the subject.

The issue will return for action at an upcoming meeting in the near future.

Here are the proposed recommendations that our group made to the BOS:

Water Hauling:

• For all commercial water haulers, require a permit, a business license, and tracking logs.

• Consider updating Chapter 9.24, applicable to potable water hauling, to require tracking logs, and consider feasibility of incorporating non-potable water hauling into the Chapter.

• Ban commercial water hauling from 11:00pm to 5:00am unless specifically exempted by the Board or specifically authorized by the Sheriff’s Office and/or fire agencies for a specific use or emergency.

• Ban commercial water hauling to any destination at which the end user will be using the water for non-permitted commercial activities.

Water Extraction:

• A major use permit is currently required for water extraction pursuant to MCC Chapters 20.036, and 20.012; in the short term, utilize existing law to require use permits for water extraction and amend the code to provide clarification of this existing requirement.

• Develop standard conditions and guidelines respecting use permits for water extraction with the input and assistance of the Planning Commission, and update the code accordingly.

• Consider developing a regulatory permitting program for groundwater extractors who are removing water from their parcel, or contiguously owned parcel, with renewable and adjustable permits based on changing water availability; require tracking logs, metering, extraction limits, and a hydrological study on any new extraction permit.

Lead Agency and Enforcement:

• Delegate the new Water Agency as the lead agency for administering water related programs, such as permitting and monitoring of water extraction and water hauling.

• Enforcement will need collaboration and coordination between Environmental Health, the new Water Agency, Code Enforcement, and the Sheriff’s Office. A point person dedicated to this effort is needed especially during summer and fall months.

• Consider substantial penalties to deter unregulated use, hauling or extraction of ground water, such as $1,000.00 (first violation), $2,000.00 (second), $3,000.00 (third), and $5,000.00 (subsequent violations).

Legislation targets sky-high CA gas prices

As gas prices continue to skyrocket, a California state Senator along with a citizen’s advocacy group I’ve long supported, Consumer Watchdog, announced this week proposed legislation that mandates oil refiners to disclose how much they make on every gallon sold.

State Sen. Ben Allen joined has introduced a bill that will require oil refiners to disclose once a month the price they pay for crude oil and the profit margins they make on the gasoline they refine and sell. SB 1322, the California Oil Refinery Cost Disclosure Act, will allow Californians to finally know how much the big five oil refiners in the state are profiting from each gallon of gasoline they sell.

Allen says Californians pay an average of $1.09 more per gallon than most other Americans.

“We ask the oil companies on behalf of California drivers: Let’s end the games of smoke and mirrors. Open your books and show the public your true costs of doing business,” said Allen, who chairs the California Legislature’s Environmental Caucus and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

A 2019 report by the state energy commission found that the primary cause of California’s high gas prices is simply that the state’s retail gasoline outlets are charging more than those in other states. The report concluded that “the primary cause of the residual price increase is simply that California’s retail gasoline outlets are charging higher prices than those in other states… The overall California increase in retail margins, above that experienced by the rest of the U.S. has resulted in California gasoline consumers paying an estimated additional $1.5 billion in 2018 and $11.6 billion over the last five years.”

“There continues to be a big black hole when it comes to data with relation to the oil and gas industry and how they price gas at the pump for regular Californians, and I think of course the industry prefers that it stays that way,” Allen explained.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has also called for an investigation into the state’s retail gasoline outlets. No results have been announced.

The proposed law also requires every California oil refiner to report monthly (for each of its California refineries that manufactures gasoline) its Gross Refining Margin per barrel, the difference between the price of crude it buys and the cost of finished gasoline it sells, and its Net Refining Margin (the “crack spread” or Gross Refining Margin minus its operational and fixed costs). The reports would be posted on the California Energy Commission website.

Question on Ukraine relief contributions: A reader sent me the following inquiry:

Jim, I have Two Questions: Are there any suggestions as to how to be safe when contributing to relief for Ukraine? Is there any secure local drive to help? How to avoid the online scammers who seem to invade so many sites? All things point to just finding a genuine phone number for a well established organization that is involved in relief and send them a check rather than a credit card number or worse a debit card number. But how do you know if what you give is sent along with minimum administrative off bleed? Doctors without borders? UNICEF? Save the Children? What to do? Please do advise. Yours, and be thoughtful. TC

My response to TC: The very best and most reliable way to check charities, relief programs is Charity Navigator, “A Guide To Intelligent Giving.” I’ve been using their website for years and always recommend it as the place to go for you to know how to safely and securely make donations. On their website, they list and rate a large number of relief programs helping Ukraine. Here’s the url:

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher,, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM or

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