New York Fracking Study Offers Warning for California

Oakland, CA-Late yesterday, New York released a several-thousand-page environmental impact study, following seven years of investigations, showing that high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) poses potentially significant risks to health and the environment. The report raises numerous concerns about fracking that will likely be replicated in California or other areas where fracking goes forward, including potential health threats from air and water pollution, contamination of drinking water and surface water, climate change impacts, earthquakes, and detrimental effects on local communities’ quality of life.

“California should heed New York’s example and put our residents’ health and our natural environment before oil and gas industry profits,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of the Center for Envronmental Health (CEH). “As this study clearly shows, if fracking isn’t safe for New Yorkers, it won’t be safe for Californians either.”

While the report from New York includes some concerns specific to the region, most of the health and environmental concerns it raises are likely to be similar, or in some cases more troubling in California. For example, the study notes that “The high volume of water associated with hydraulic fracturing may also result in significant adverse impacts relating to water supplies (and) other water resources…” Given the dire drought conditions in California, there is no justification for using such immense water resources to unearth climate-destroying fossil fuels.

Contrary to industry claims about the increasing evidence of the safety of fracking, the New York study concludes that “(T)he uncertainty regarding the potential significant adverse environmental and public health impacts has been growing over time.” Some of the concerns raised by the New York report that should also concern Californians include:

  • Air pollution due to increased levels of particulate matter, diesel exhaust, and/or volatile organic chemicals, with potential increases in respiratory health problems;
  • Drinking water pollution from underground contamination by methane and/or fracking chemicals;
  • Surface spills with potential soil, groundwater, and surface water contamination, and/or surface water contamination from inadequate wastewater treatment;
  • Increased risks of earthquakes;
  • Climate change effects due to releases of methane and other volatile organic chemicals;
  • Unavoidable impacts to natural wildlife habitats and harmful effects on overall natural resource biodiversity;
  • Detrimental effects on neighboring communities’ quality-of-life, including increased vehicle traffic, road damage, noise, odor complaints, and increased local demand for housing and medical care; and
  • Suppressing investment in and use of clean energy alternatives, such as renewable solar and wind, or energy efficiency.

Two peer-reviewed studies co-authored by CEH have documented air pollution risks from fracking and the increased risks of reproductive and developmental health problems from chemicals used in fracking. Hundreds of toxic chemicals, including chemicals known to cause cancer and other serious diseases are used in fracking fluids. As the New York report notes, fracking creates “some significant adverse impacts that are simply unavoidable.”

The full New York report and Executive Summary are here and here.

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is the leading national nonprofit committed to ending health threats from toxic chemicals in our air, water, food and in products we use every day. CEH protects children and families from harmful chemicals by working with communities, consumers, workers, and government to demand and support safer business practices. We also work with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices.

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