On Shaky Ground

How Oil Companies Increase California’s Earthquake Risk

Can California head off a shaky fracking future?

The Risk

Fracking, Acidizing, and California’s Increased Earthquake Danger


Oil companies are putting our state on shaky ground.

California has always been earthquake country. We have more people and more infrastructure at risk from quakes than any other state.

But our new analysis reveals fresh cause for concern. We found:

Underground wastewater injection can increase pressure on faults, reducing the fault’s natural friction and triggering an earthquake.

And state regulators are doing practically nothing to protect Californians from the seismic risks of wastewater injection.

California is on the verge of rapidly expanding unconventional oil production into the Monterey Shale, a vast oil deposit in Central and Southern California.

Thanks to fracking, acidizing, and other dangerous techniques to produce this oil, we could see trillions of gallons of additional wastewater — and a growing danger of earthquakes.

To protect California, we must curb oil industry wastewater production by halting fracking, acidizing, and other extreme oil production methods.

But we have to act fast to reduce the risk to millions of Californians.

The Findings

1. Hundreds of Oil Wastewater Wells Near Active Faults

A majority of California’s active oil and gas wastewater injection wells are close to faults.

Distance of California’s Active/New Wastewater Wells to Recently Active Faults
Number of active/new wells (percent) Distance to recently active fault
87 wells (6%) Within 1 mile
350 wells (23%) Within 5 miles
834 wells (54%) Within 10 miles

2. Millions of Californians at risk for induced earthquakes

The oil industry operates many wastewater injection wells that are both very close to active faults and near California’s major population centers — such as Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

3. Research and monitoring: Dangerously inadequate

The increased earthquake risk from California’s existing wastewater injection wells or fracked wells is unstudied. And state oil regulators require no seismic monitoring at or near wastewater injection wells.

4. Regulations don’t protect Californians

Due to significant knowledge gaps, California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources cannot safely regulate the earthquake risk from oil and gas production and wastewater disposal.

5. Oil industry wastewater poses unacceptable risks

Extracting the Monterey Shale’s oil could produce almost 9 trillion gallons of contaminated wastewater.

We need strong action due to the:

  • Environmental and health risks from drilling, well stimulation and wastewater disposal,
  • Links between wastewater wells and earthquakes in other states,
  • Potential for massive new wastewater production in the Monterey Shale, and
  • Gaps in scientific knowledge regarding induced seismicity

The best way to protect Californians is to halt hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, and other unconventional oil and gas recovery techniques.

The Report

shakyground-coverOn Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California analyzes the earthquake risks associated with increased wastewater injection that would result from an expansion of fracking, acidizing, and other forms of unconventional oil production in California.

To graphically illustrate the risks, the report includes maps from an online interactive tool the FracTracker Alliance developed to show current oil and gas development, including fracked and acidized wells, active wastewater injection wells, fault lines, and communities.

Released in March 2014, On Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California was produced by Earthworks, The Center for Biological Diversity, and Clean Water Action.

Download a full copy of the report.

The Map

Embedded below is an interactive map developed by the FracTracker Alliance – Injection Wells and Hydraulic Fracturing in California’s Fault Zones. It shows that thousands of actively fracked wells (red stars), and wastewater injection wells (yellow diamonds), are located very near seismic faults.

Some wells are located on faults in densely populated areas like Inglewood, a few miles from downtown Los Angeles. Wells are also near faults in Santa Clarita, La Habra, and Long Beach.  In Ventura County, wells are near faults in Ventura and Ojai. And wells, offshore and onshore, are near faults in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County.

The San Andreas fault, one of the world’s most active, is just a few miles from hundreds of wastewater injection wells in Kern County. Near Bakersfield, injection wells can be found near faults north and east of the city. Further north, wells can be found near faults in Monterey, San Mateo, Solano, Sacramento, Glenn, and Sutter counties.

The embedded map can be viewed in full screen and in more detail by clicking the opposing arrows at upper right.  FracTracker also developed a separate interactive map —  California Geological Hazards Map.

The Solution

Solar_PanelsbMillions of Californians live in areas threatened by oil industry-induced earthquakes.

To protect California from induced earthquakes, climate disruption, and pollution of our communities’ air and water, our state’s leaders need to halt fracking, acidizing and other unconventional oil and gas recovery techniques. And they need to act fast.

Here’s how you can get involved:

ewlogologo-cw-textCenter for Biological Diversity


Maps from the Report (click thumbnails for larger maps)
LA-ClassII-WastewaterWells-300x232 SCA-Liquefaction-Landslide-HazardZones-300x232
OjaiWell-RelativeTo-SanCayentanoFault-300x232 Ventura-ClassII-WastewaterWells-300x232
Faults-Wastewater-InjectionsWells-ES-225x291 Kern-ClassII-WastewaterWells-225x291

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

On Shaky GroundFracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk in California

Media contacts:

Alan Septoff
(202) 887-1872 x105

Patrick Sullivan
Center for Biological Diversity
(415) 632-5316

Andrew Grinberg
Clean Water Action
(415) 369-9172


Thank you! I have received your message.




Contact Info