For Immediate Release, June 17, 2014

Contact: Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

New California Fracking Rules Let Oil Industry Hide Dangerous Chemical Use

Weak Regulations Won’t Protect Health, Promote Transparency

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Proposed regulations meant to permanently govern fracking and other dangerous oil production techniques in California would do little to protect the state’s air, water and public health. Draft rules unveiled today by Gov. Jerry Brown’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources also allow regulators to rubber-stamp multiple fracks and include a “well maintenance” loophole permitting oil companies to conceal dangerous chemical use.

“Gov. Brown’s weak fracking rules are a huge gift to oil companies using dangerous chemicals in California communities,” said Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “State officials are simply refusing to protect people from fracking pollution or even ensure we know what hazardous substances are used in our neighborhoods. That’s why cities and counties are moving to safeguard their residents by halting fracking and other risky extraction methods.”

The regulations proposed today would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015, replacing temporary fracking rules now in place. Among the draft regulations’ biggest flaws:

  • No protection for the air and climate: The state's draft regulations don’t require operators to capture methane, a potent greenhouse gas. They don’t protect people living near fracked wells from air pollutants that cause cancer and respiratory illness. A recent Center analysis found that oil companies used more than 45 million pounds of dangerous “air toxic” chemicals in fracking, acidizing and gravel packing over the past year in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
  • “Well-maintenance” loophole continues to let companies avoid disclosure: The draft regulations allow companies to avoid disclosing dangerous chemical use to the public by claiming to be using the fracking or acidizing chemicals for “well maintenance” purposes.
  • Rubber-stamp approval for multiple fracking events: The regulations’ “single project authorization” provision might be interpreted by oil officials as allowing them to approve many applications with one rubber-stamp approval.
  • Weak water protection: Testing to collect baseline water quality data and uncover fracking pollution will only be done at the request of people living within 1,500 feet of a fracked well. An apartment building would only receive one notice for all its tenants.
  • Rules unlikely to be enforced: A Center analysis found more than 100 violations of current fracking disclosure requirements in the past several months, making it likely that such violations by state oil officials and oil operators will continue.

Nearly a third of California’s wells are fracked, according to a recent statement from the oil industry. Oil companies have also fracked hundreds of wells off California’s coast, and the industry has federal permission to annually dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including fracking fluid, directly into the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel.

In response to fracking’s spread, Los Angeles and other California communities have begun moving forward with local measures that would halt fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques. Pressure is mounting on Governor Brown to ban these dangerous oil and gas activities in California. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back