Oil giants sell thousands of California wells, raising worries about future liability in a battle over water
By Kate Randall
17 May 2015
For the second time in two days, oil executives from Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil have come to California to argue over California’s water rights—this time at the offices of one of the nation’s leading environmental advocacy organizations on the edge of Los Angeles.
The two companies arrived on Tuesday with a joint message: Chevron, the world’s largest oil company, had bought a small, oil-producing California water supplier for $35 million, while ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, had purchased an independent water provider for $70 million.
ExxonMobil bought the water supplier CalWater in 2011, but Chevron hasn’t invested in it yet. Chevron has spent millions on a variety of water projects in the past several years.
The companies also want California to allow them to drill for oil in the waters at issue in the Pacific coast oil spill.
Chevron argues that the water purchase is required to operate a portion of its business, and that California’s decision to allow the purchase is being made by a state agency, the Coastal Commission, that is both “ultimately responsible for the regulation and protection of the waters of California” and “cannot be dismissed as merely ‘voluntary.’”
On Wednesday, in its press release, Chevron claimed that the acquisition was part of its commitment to work with California to build a “healthy, competitive, and vibrant economy” in the state.
“Our California business is critical to Chevron’s long-term growth, and we continue to believe that our actions in California are in the best interests of our shareholders, our employees, and our customers,” said Kevin J. Kelley, Chevron’s chief executive officer, in a statement.
“We recognize that our actions and our future decisions cannot be divorced from the environment we live in and believe our purchase of CalWater is a prudent decision,” Kelley continued. “We believe that our state-of-the-art water management system is critical to California’s economic vitality.”
The joint press release included a reference to the “state’s most significant export and foreign policy objective and has