Independent scientific study: California is failing to protect health and the environment from fracking and other oil production

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Clean Water Action released the following statement in response to the California Council on Science and Technology's (CCST) "An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation in California" which can be downloaded here.

"This study exposes California's oil producers as the polluters that they are. The science clearly identifies numerous  threats from fracking and other oil production activities that California's laws, regulations, enforcement and available data do not adequately address," said Andrew Grinberg, Clean Water Action's oil and gas program manager. "The appropriate response from Governor Brown is an immediate moratorium on all well stimulation activities until all the significant threats in this report are addressed. The State must also act now to develop protections from all oil and gas activities, beyond just fracking. The science is clear that the State should act immediately and implement major reforms on oil and gas wastewater disposal, limiting dangerous chemical use and requiring mandatory setbacks from communities to protect health."

The report made many notable findings and policy recommendations, including:

  • Unlined disposal pits are the most likely pathway for contamination of groundwater from well stimulation and other oil production activities. Almost 60% of stimulated wells between 2011 and 2014 disposed of their wastewater into unlined pits. The report recommends prohibiting disposal of contaminated oil and gas wastewater into unlined pits.
  • Chemicals and wastewater from stimulated wells have been injected into drinking water sources. The State has identified thousands of injection wells that were improperly permitted to inject into protected groundwater. The report identifies major gaps in oversight, data and monitoring that are needed in order to protect drinking water from underground injection. In June, the California Assembly rejected AB 356 (Williams) which would have begun to address those gaps.
  • Well stimulation treatment and other oil and gas processes utilize a large number of hazardous chemicals. The report recommends that state apply green chemistry principles and work to reduce hazardous chemical use to reduce risk to human health.
  • Oil production, regardless of whether a well is stimulated or not, presents public health threats to those living in close proximity. There are major data gaps on air pollution emissions and the impacts to human health from the oil industry in California. The report recommends requiring mandatory setbacks between oil and gas facilities and where people live.
Andrew Grinberg
1 415-298-8314