The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

Analysis Highlights Fracking Risks Ahead of Sacramento Hearing

 California Lawmakers Will Examine Neighborhood Air Pollution, ‘Shallow Fracking’ Threats to Water 


Ahead of a state legislative hearing Tuesday, Californians Against Fracking today released a new analysis of an independent scientific study on the environmental and health risks of fracking and other oil and gas well stimulation.

The analysis breaks down the 1,000-page study by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), which found that fracking threatens the state's water supplies, public health and the environment, and -- most notably -- recommended minimum setbacks for all oil development to protect communities from air pollution.

"Scientists are warning that fracking and oil drilling threaten California's air and water in ways that clearly aren't addressed by state rules," said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Oil companies are fracking next to homes and schools and dangerously close to underground water supplies. That's unfair, unsafe and unacceptable. Lawmakers and Gov. Brown must protect our water and the millions of Californians who live near polluting oil wells."

Kretzmann, the author of the analysis, will attend the hearing Tuesday in Sacramento to call on legislators to take action to protect California's air, water and communities. The hearing starts at 9 a.m. in the State Capitol in room 112.

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Under Senate Bill 4, signed by Gov. Brown in 2013, the state commissioned an independent panel of scientists at CCST to study fracking and other types of well stimulation to help guide state regulators. But the scientific report was released after state officials finalized new fracking regulations that don't address many dangers identified by the council's experts.

The CCST study found serious risks from fracking and other oil and gas activities. Among the report's most important findings and recommendations:

1. Neighborhood oil drilling may expose millions of Californians to health risks from air pollution, and science-based setbacks are needed to keep wells away from homes and schools.

  • CCST recommends science-based minimum setbacks for all oil and gas wells, not just fracking, to protect people who could be exposed to harmful chemicals released in all types of oil and gas production.
  • The closer the well, the greater the risk. In the Los Angeles area alone, about 1.7 million people live within one mile of an active oil and gas well, and hundreds of schools, elderly facilities, and daycare facilities are located within that same distance. More than 32,000 people live within about 300 feet of such a well. Children and people with asthma and heart conditions are more susceptible to health effects from pollutants associated with oil and gas development.

2. Fracking can cause water contamination.

  • Roughly 75 percent of fracking in California occurs at very shallow depths. In many areas, this means fracking is taking place at the same depths as groundwater.
  • CCST recommends that shallow fracking near groundwater be prohibited unless it can be proven safe.
  • The science panel also recommends California stop allowing disposal of oil wastewater, which contains a toxic mix of fracking fluid and naturally occurring chemicals, into unlined pits. Disposal pits have resulted in groundwater contamination in California and other states.

3. Chemicals used in fracking are harmful to humans. Fourteen chemicals used in fracking and other well stimulation in California are among the world's most toxic substances. Dozens of others have adverse human health effects. Other chemicals are either unknown or have not been adequately studied. More than 100 chemicals have not been properly identified by well operators, even though complete disclosure is required under state law.

4. Air pollution from well stimulation has not been studied. No research in California has tracked the extent to which extremely toxic chemicals used in fracking and other types of well stimulation escape into the air.

5. Fracking can cause earthquakes. Fracking and the injection of wastewater produced from fracking and similar processes occur "within about the same depth range" as the faults that cause the bulk of seismic activity. The potential for induced seismic activity is "at least as high in California" as elsewhere in the country. The CCST found a link between wastewater injection and a cluster of earthquakes in California.

"Gov. Brown's plea to give science a chance has been answered, and experts have raised grave concerns about the risks of fracking and extreme oil development in California," said Dan Jacobson of Environment California. "This report and other studies from across the country show that fracking endangers our air, our water, and our health. It's time to ban this toxic technique."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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