For Immediate Release, April 1, 2014

Contact: Shaye Wolf, (415) 632-5301,

As Earthquakes Strike Los Angeles Area, Oil Industry’s Fracking Wastewater Injection Raises Seismic Concerns

LOS ANGELES— Recent earthquakes in Los Angeles and Orange counties offer a wakeup call about the seismic dangers facing California, even as a recent report finds that the oil industry is increasing quake risks by injecting billions of gallons wastewater every year from fracking and other activities into disposal wells near active faults around L.A. and other major cities.

Los Angeles County has 64 active or new oil-industry wastewater disposal wells, according to a recent report from the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations. On Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California, available at, found more than 800 of these oil-industry wastewater wells near recently active faults across California.

Scientists have concluded that injection of oil and gas wastewater can reduce the natural friction that pins faults in place, triggering earthquakes. Oil-industry wastewater disposal appears to have induced a 2011 quake in Oklahoma that injured people and destroyed more than a dozen homes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“The oil industry is increasing L.A’s earthquake risk by injecting fracking wastewater into disposal wells near active faults,” said report coauthor Dr. Shaye Wolf of the Center. “California oil regulators don’t even require seismic monitoring near wastewater wells, which makes it difficult to tie specific quakes to fracking wastewater injection. But other states have suffered dramatic increases in quake activity, and California is clearly at risk from these dangerous disposal wells.” 

Key facts about fracking wastewater wells and earthquakes:

  • 54 percent of California’s active wastewater wells are within 10 miles of a recently active fault.
  • California oil regulators require no seismic monitoring near wastewater injection wells, and state officials have not examined whether past earthquakes were triggered by fracking or disposal wells.
  • Other states where fracking and underground wastewater disposal have proliferated have suffered as much as a tenfold increase in quake activity.
  • Extracting the oil in California’s Monterey Shale formation could produce almost 9 trillion gallons of contaminated wastewater, which could expose the state to a surge in damaging earthquakes like those seen in Oklahoma, Texas and other states experiencing rapidly increased fracking and wastewater production.
  • Given the earthquake risk linked to wastewater disposal, as well as unconventional oil production’s other environmental and health risks, the best way to protect Californians is to halt hydraulic fracturing, acidizing and other dangerous oil and gas recovery techniques.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 675,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species.

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