Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 11, 2014

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

New Report: Offshore Fracking Threatens California's Ocean, Air, Seismic Safety

10 Widely Used Fracking Chemicals Endanger Marine Life, Analysis Finds

SAN FRANCISCO— As the California Coastal Commission meets in Smith River this week, scientists with the Center for Biological Diversity today released a new report outlining the serious dangers posed by toxic chemicals, air pollution and increased earthquake risk linked to offshore fracking near Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

Troubled Waters

The “Troubled Waters” report also examines unique environmental concerns raised by the California Council on Science and Technology, which recently unveiled data showing that fracking in California occurs at shallower depths and with higher concentrations of chemicals than in other areas.

“Oil companies fracking offshore wells are using incredibly toxic chemicals that can hurt sea otters and other marine wildlife,” said Shaye Wolf, a Center biologist. “Offshore fracking also pollutes our air, and underground disposal of fracking wastewater poses an earthquake threat to coastal communities. The risks of fracking get clearer every day, and the Coastal Commission needs to stop the oil industry from using this toxic technique in our fragile ocean ecosystems.”

Here are the report’s key findings:

  1. Toxic discharges: Oil platforms off California’s coast are permitted to dump 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including fracking chemicals, into the ocean each year.
  2. Wildlife threats: At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used offshore in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish. Fracking in the state employs high concentrations of chemicals, including substances acutely toxic to mammals, according to new data from the California Council on Science and Technology.
  3. Hazardous air pollution: Fracking increases air pollution and can expose coastal communities to air pollutants that cause cancer and other illnesses. Most offshore frack jobs have occurred within three miles of the coast, near communities like Long Beach, which already has some of the nation’s most polluted air.
  4. Earthquake risk: Injecting fracking wastewater underground can induce earthquakes, and all of Southern California’s offshore injection wells are within three miles of an active fault.

The Coastal Commission has struggled to determine the full extent of offshore fracking, which involves blasting water and industrial chemicals into the seafloor at pressures high enough to crack rocks and release oil and gas. Oil companies have fracked more than 200 offshore wells near Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Seal Beach, as well as in the Santa Barbara Channel.

A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Center found that 55 percent of Californians back a ban on offshore fracking, and 65 percent want oil companies prevented from dumping fracking chemicals into the ocean.

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.

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