In California, oil companies are increasing 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 released from Earthworks, the Center for Biological Diversity and Clean Water Action. A boom on hydraulic fracturing 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.
In addition to exposing the fact that millions of Californians live in areas threatened by oil industry-induced earthquakes, the report found that a majority of California’s active oil industry wastewater injection wells are near recently active faults:
The report also finds that these wells are located near active faults and major populations centers, such as Los Angeles. Inadequate research, lack of seismic monitoring at injection and fracked wells, don’t allow the state’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to fully understand the problem. With these significant knowledge gaps, the state and DOGGR cannot safely regulate fracking and wastewater disposal, and protect Californians from induced earthquakes.
The best way to protect Californians, Texans, and citizens all over the world, is to halt hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, and other dangerous oil and gas recovery techniques. Unfortunately, industry has endless money to spend trying to convince Americans that fracking is safe. In California, Dave Quast, California field director for Energy In Depth, went from peddling cigarettes to youth to peddling fracking to Californians. Deception requires the same skill set whether it's cigarettes or fracking.
The full On Shaky Ground report — which features maps of faults, fracked and acidized wells, and wastewater disposal wells — is available at www.ShakyGround.org.
More than 800 rural Texans filled the high school auditorium in Azle on January 2. They came to a town hall held by the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) hoping to get answers about the recent swarm of over 30 earthquakes in that area. The audience booed when David Porter, Texas Railroad Commissioner announced that he and his staff were there to hear from the people but would not be answering any questions.
In the audience sat a bunch of people in denim and flannel shirts whose homes and property were damaged from the earthquakes. On the stage sat a several men from the RRC wearing suits who announced the meeting would be short because tomorrow would be a busy day for them. The chasm between the two groups was enormous.
The denim and flannel clad folks spoke about sinkholes, cracked foundations and walls, busted water pipes, and their children’s nightmares. These rural Texans called for fracking to stop. One man said, “Maybe if the ground shakes down in Austin we will get some results.”
Led by Earthworks, several environmental and citizen groups in North Texas decided to hold a people’s meeting in Azlethe following Monday to give residents information about induced earthquakes and help them organize to shake the ground down in Austin. Despite the short notice and aided by a M3.1 earthquake just before the meeting, over 350 people attended and decided to take a bus to Austin to speak during the public comments portion of the next RRC meeting.
Despite scientific authorities linking fracking wastewater injection wells to earthquakes, including the United States Geological Survey and the National Academies of Science, the RRC announced at the meeting that they would not take action to protect the public until after their yet to be hired seismologist had studied the issue in Texas.
The RRC still has not hired a seismologist. Azle area residents have formed a new group, Concerned Citizens for Responsible Industry. They are working on resolutions asking that injection cease at area wells until the scientific studies are complete.
Jhon Arbelaez, Earthworks' California Organizer, coauthored this post.