Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 30, 2015

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

Brown Administration Sued for Ignoring Risk Report on Fracking

Oil Agency OK'd Fracking Without Considering Scientists' Warnings on Water, Health, Safety

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity sued California’s scandal-plagued oil agency today for finalizing an inadequate environmental review of fracking eight days before the release of a state-mandated study showing that fracking and oil industry pollution threatens air, water and public health.

The report recommended halting fracking and oil drilling near homes, schools and hospitals. Millions of Californians live close enough to fracking or other oil and gas operations to be exposed to dangerous air pollution. Scientists also found that most fracking in California is done at shallow depths, increasing water-pollution risks.

“Oil regulators defied state lawmakers by failing to consider the damage that fracking does to the air we breathe and the water we drink,” said Center attorney Kassie Siegel. “In New York, Gov. Cuomo banned fracking after reviewing the science. In California, Gov. Brown simply refused to consider the dangers outlined by scientists and is putting millions of Californians at risk.”

The suit, filed in Superior Court in Sacramento County, challenges the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources’ decision to finalize a flawed “environmental impact report” on fracking and well stimulation before the California Council on Science and Technology statewide scientific study of extreme oil production was released. That violated Senate Bill 4 — a new fracking disclosure law — and the California Environmental Quality Act.

S.B. 4 required the science council study to be completed by Jan. 1, 2015, so that it would be fully considered in the environmental impact report required by July 1, 2015. But after the science council study was delayed, oil officials instead finalized the environmental impact report and green-lighted fracking about a week before scientists released their study.

In the report the science council urged the state not to issue permits for “shallow fracking” — about three-quarters of all fracking done in California — unless officials could somehow conclusively say that groundwater could be protected. The report found that fracking in the state commonly employs dangerously toxic chemicals at shallow depths near drinking-water aquifers, creating a greater risk of water contamination than in other states.

“Nurses understand that many of the new techniques for extracting gas and oil can threaten people’s health,” said Barbara Sattler of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “In many of the communities where these techniques are being applied the communities’ health is already under siege by the worst air pollution in the state. The additional insult of extraction-related exposures is going to cause even more health problems in at risk children, adults, and the elderly. Continuing to expand these practices is counter to all public health values; it is unsafe and unfair. And it is unacceptable.” 

Oil companies now frack about half of all new wells drilled in California.

 “We were promised that decisions on fracking in California would be guided by science, but that hasn’t happened,” Siegel said. “The Brown administration finalized the environmental impact report a week before the science review panel issued its report showing devastating risks to Californians from oil extraction. How many broken promises do we have to see before Gov. Brown bans fracking and starts protecting us from oil industry pollution?”

The Center is represented by Deborah Sivas of Stanford Law School and Center attorneys Clare Lakewood and Kassie Siegel.

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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