Fracking Boom Would Increase California’s Earthquake Danger, Report Finds

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Earthworks * Clean Water Action * Center for Biological Diversity

press RELEASE: Mar 13, 2014

Contacts:
Alan Septoff, (202) 887-1872×105, aseptoff@earthworksaction.org
Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364, psullivan@biologicaldiversity.org
Andrew Grinberg, (415) 369-9172, agrinberg@cleanwater.org

Fracking Boom Would Increase California’s Earthquake Danger, Report Finds

Hundreds of Oil Wastewater Wells Near Active Faults and Major Cities Already Raising Quake Risk for Millions of Californians

CoverSAN FRANCISCO — Oil companies are increasing California’s earthquake risk by injecting billions of gallons of oil and gas wastewater a year into hundreds of disposal wells near active faults around Los Angeles, Bakersfield and other major cities, according to a new report from Earthworks, the Center for Biological Diversity and Clean Water Action.

A boom in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in California would worsen the danger of earthquakes, the report finds, by greatly increasing oil wastewater production and underground injection. Extracting the Monterey Shale’s oil could produce almost 9 trillion gallons of contaminated wastewater, the report estimates. That could expose California to a surge in damaging earthquakes like those seen in Oklahoma, Texas, and other states experiencing rapidly increased fracking and wastewater production.

On Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California finds that millions of Californians live in areas threatened by oil industry-induced earthquakes. Academic research and government experts conclude that wastewater injection can reduce faults’ natural friction and trigger earthquakes.

State officials have not examined whether past earthquakes were triggered by fracking or disposal wells, and existing and proposed regulations do not adequately address the risk. Because of research and knowledge gaps and inadequate monitoring, state officials cannot protect Californians from induced quakes.

“This isn’t rocket science. We’ve known for decades that wastewater injection increases earthquake risk,” said report co-author Jhon Arbelaez of Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project. He continued, “Since Gov. Brown resolutely refuses to learn from other communities’ experience with fracking across the country, our only option to protect California families is to prevent fracking altogether.”

“An oil fracking boom in California could raise the risk of devastating earthquakes in some of our biggest cities,” said report coauthor Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., of the Center for Biological Diversity. “State officials are ignoring the problem, but as risky new oil production techniques spread, we could see trillions of gallons of wastewater shot into the ground near active faults. We need to nip this danger in the bud by halting fracking and acidizing.”

“The risk of seismic impacts is yet another illustration that the massive wastestream resulting from oil production threatens California’s drinking water and public safety,” said report coauthor Andrew Grinberg of Clean Water Action. “While threats to water, air and health have been well-documented, our emerging understanding of the risk of induced seismicity is yet another reason for a time-out on fracking. The findings in this report continue this troubling trend: the more we learn about California’s oil industry, the more cause we find for alarm.”

The On Shaky Ground report’s key findings:

A boom in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in California would worsen the danger of earthquakes, the report finds, by greatly increasing oil wastewater production and underground injection. Extracting the Monterey Shale’s oil could produce almost 9 trillion gallons of contaminated wastewater, the report estimates. That could expose California to a surge in damaging earthquakes like those seen in Oklahoma, Texas, and other states experiencing rapidly increased fracking and wastewater production.

On Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California finds that millions of Californians live in areas threatened by oil industry-induced earthquakes. Academic research and government experts conclude that wastewater injection can reduce faults’ natural friction and trigger earthquakes.

State officials have not examined whether past earthquakes were triggered by fracking or disposal wells, and existing and proposed regulations do not adequately address the risk. Because of research and knowledge gaps and inadequate monitoring, state officials cannot protect Californians from induced quakes.

“This isn’t rocket science. We’ve known for decades that wastewater injection increases earthquake risk,” said report co-author Jhon Arbelaez of Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project. He continued, “Since Gov. Brown resolutely refuses to learn from other communities’ experience with fracking across the country, our only option to protect California families is to prevent fracking altogether.”

“An oil fracking boom in California could raise the risk of devastating earthquakes in some of our biggest cities,” said report coauthor Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., of the Center for Biological Diversity. “State officials are ignoring the problem, but as risky new oil production techniques spread, we could see trillions of gallons of wastewater shot into the ground near active faults. We need to nip this danger in the bud by halting fracking and acidizing.”

“The risk of seismic impacts is yet another illustration that the massive wastestream resulting from oil production threatens California’s drinking water and public safety,” said report coauthor Andrew Grinberg of Clean Water Action. “While threats to water, air and health have been well-documented, our emerging understanding of the risk of induced seismicity is yet another reason for a time-out on fracking. The findings in this report continue this troubling trend: the more we learn about California’s oil industry, the more cause we find for alarm.”

The On Shaky Ground report’s key findings: http://www.shakyground.org/

About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.

Comments

  1. Tony says

    Sharon

    Understandable concerns I agree, but your illustrative photos each time there is what is relatively a minor earthquake seem a vast exageration. You use photos of buckled and destroyed roads that were the result of larger quakes many thousands to millions of times mpre powerful elsewhere in the globe. It is analogous to me writing an article titled “car in fender bender” and publishing an unrelated photo of a completely totalled car. Why not use photos of the actual damage? This will keep things factual and in perspective. i am not arguing that the quakes are not real or the damage is not real, or the cause is not likely the injection wells. I am just simply pointing out the exageration.

    • says

      Tony,

      Talk about exaggeration! “your illustrative photos each time there is what is relatively a minor earthquake” I challenge you to look back through my blog for all the years I have been writing about induced earthquakes and find another instance other than what is noted below.

      We live in a world of graphics and people like pictures. So, a while back I used an old movie poster several times from the movie “Earthquake” for the fun of it. My blog wants me to use pictures so recently when I posted about an earthquake I used a picture of a road with a chasm in it because I couldn’t readily find the picture of the actual road chasm created by the Prague, OK M5.7 induced earthquake. So, that road chasm picture was an exaggeration.

      I did not choose the picture for the cover of this report because it’s not my report. I’m guessing the photo is from an earthquake that happened in California since the report is about California. As the report states, we don’t know how big one of these induced earthquakes can get and that is no exaggeration.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  2. SharonKnowsMe says

    I’d be glad to share photos of my home, complete with cracked tiles, cracked bricks on all sides, drywall nails popping out in every room, cracked walls, and backyard retaining wall falling over from shifting ground. I’m sure I’ll have the buyers lining up for this house, when I put it up for sale. If they don’t already mind the 12 gas tanks, semis coming in 24/7, and large compressor unit right behind my yard.

  3. Alberta Neighbor says

    It’s hard to tell anymore if the destroyed roads are from the companies frac quakes, or their oilfield traffic.

    When I saw the cover of the earthquake report, it reminded me of the road damage that keeps popping up in the midst of a frac frenzy just outside of Calgary.

    This destroyed road is right out front of a frac’d multi-well pad in the multi-million dollar (and diving) area of Bearspaw.

    The unexaggerated resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?

    http://www.frackingcanada.ca/storage/BearspawTwpRd262DestroyedByOilfieldTruckTrafficRockyViewCountyAlberta2013.jpg

  4. Whitney says

    I read through the report and did not see the credentials for the authors listed anywhere. An internet search did not produce resumes for any of the authors. Do any of them have advanced degrees in geology?

    Also the article failed to show any correlations between well fracturing and an increase of earthquakes seen in California. As it stated California is a very seismically active state, however it did not show that drilling contributed to or was a cause of any additional earthquakes. I’d like to see a study done that describes the depth of the fault line, where earthquakes begin to occur and how close the wells are to the actual fault line.

    In addition, Southern California just had a 4.4 magnitude earthquake yesterday. There was no reported damage.

    • says

      The authors hold advanced degrees in sciences, and have extensive experience in researching and analyzing scientific data. Additionally, the authors reviewed the data with geologists and experts at the University of California.

      The report states clear correlations between hydraulic fracturing and underground injection to seismic activity all over the world. In California, regulators have not studied these links in the past, and do not require data to keep track and differentiate between naturally occurring earthquakes, and man-made ones. The data gap and lack of oversight prevents any one organization or agency to fully study the effects. We know for sure that California is a very seismically active state, and we know for sure that hydraulic fracturing and underground injection have caused earthquakes in other states. Why use California and its inhabitants as a huge laboratory experiment? As you have stated, a thorough scientific study on this issues is necessary. Until we know this practice is safe, and will not put Californians at risk, let’s put a halt on hydraulic fracturing.

      No reported damage does not mean that there is no cause for concern. Geologists at the USGS have stated that the epicenter of the LA earthquake occurred in an area that has not been active for nearly 80 years. We must always be vigilant for any kind of earthquake, whether they may be big or small. Earthquakes can occur anywhere, and there are many unknown faults throughout our state, such as the one that caused the devastating Northridge earthquake in 1994. There is no need to continue putting our people, infrastructure, and economy at risk.

  5. says

    To begin with, California is a state of frequent earthquakes. But now a days it is hard to tell which is which since there is too much digging and the earthquakes have become more frequent.