Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 1, 2015

Contact: Clare Lakewood, (510) 844-7121,

California OKs Fracking Regulations Before Scientists Finish Studying Risks

State Certifies Environmental Review Without Results of Delayed Fracking Study

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Gov. Jerry Brown’s scandal-plagued oil agency today finalized weak regulations for hydraulic fracturing that fail to protect California communities from fracking pollution.

The state’s Department of Conservation also finalized an assessment of fracking’s health and environmental risks, even though scientists working on a mandated, independent statewide scientific study have not finished evaluating fracking’s dangers. The study should have been completed six months ago.

“Gov. Brown has recklessly given fracking the thumbs up before scientists can finish studying this toxic technique,” said Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil regulators can’t protect us from oil industry pollution if they won’t wait for experts to explain the dangers. The state’s weak fracking rules focus on notification and do almost nothing to safeguard California’s air, water or public health.”

The state’s final environmental review comes a week before the Brown administration plans to release findings from the California Council on Science and Technology on fracking’s threats to water, air and public health. But under Senate Bill 4, California’s new fracking law, that study should have been completed by January 1.

The Council’s experts have previously found that fracking in California occurs at unusually shallow depths, close to protected drinking water aquifers, and with high concentrations of chemicals, raising concerns about water pollution. Oil companies now frack about half of all new wells drilled in California.

The fracking rules finalized today do nothing to curtail the oil industry’s production of toxic wastewater. Fracking in California produces vast quantities of waste fluid contaminated with high levels of cancer-causing benzene, according to oil company tests.

State regulators recently admitted allowing oil companies to dump oil waste fluid into scores of underground water supplies (interactive map) across the state. The state’s top oil official resigned two weeks ago in the wake of lawsuits over his failure to prevent oil companies from contaminating protected aquifers.

The fracking regulations that take effect today also do not address the large increase in deadly air pollutants like particulate matter, ozone and air toxics that accompany fracking. Oil companies engaged in fracking and other extreme oil production methods have used millions of pounds of dangerous “air toxic” chemicals more than 5,000 times in the Los Angeles Basin, according to a recent Center report. The regulations will do nothing to reduce such air toxics. 

Dozens of scientific studies investigating fracking and the risks of shale and tight gas development have found health impacts, actual water contamination, risks to water and elevated air pollution levels. A recent EPA study revealed specific instances in which fracking activities have contaminated drinking water. 

“Gov. Brown is intentionally flying blind on fracking,” Kretzmann said. “Studies have found that fracking pollutes our water and makes us sick. By refusing to ban dangerous oil extraction or even wait for scientists to finish evaluating the risks in our state, the governor is putting the people of California in harm’s way.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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