Fracking by the Numbers

New Environment California Research and Policy Center Report First to Quantify Threat of Fracking

Environment California Research & Policy Center

San Francisco, CA — Today, a new Environment California Research and Policy Center report called Fracking by the Numbers measures the damage being done by dirty drilling across the country. On the heels of legislation to regulate fracking in California, the report is the first study of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking damage to date—including toxic wastewater, water use, chemical use, air pollution, land damage and global warming emissions. Extrapolating from the national data, this report provides key insight into what could happen to California’s water, air, and beautiful places absent a statewide ban on fracking. 

“The numbers don’t lie—fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If fracking is allowed here, this is the kind of damage we will see in California,” said Emily Waterhouse, Field Associate from Environment California.

Often laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive material, toxic fracking waste has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. Of particular concern, the report finds that the total volume of fracking waste generated across the country in 2012 is enough to flood all of San Francisco in a 28 foot deep toxic lagoon.

National trends on fracking damage indicate that by 2020, the potential impact of fracking on California would be immense:

  • With a conservative estimate of 25,000 fracked wells, California could expect to lose up to 76 billion gallons of water to dirty drilling.
  • At 50,000 fracked wells, 220,000 acres, or almost the size of Channel Islands National Park, would be directly damaged.
  • This level of drilling would be the greenhouse gas equivalent of adding 12.5 million passenger vehicle to the road.

“To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to keep the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves underground,” said Rose Braz, Climate Campaign Director for the Center for Biological Diversity.  “Governor Brown should start by not fracking the Monterey Shale’s 15 billion barrels of dirty oil.”

A majority of Californians are against the expansion of fracking, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll. However, the state legislature has had little success this year debating bills that would impose a moratorium on fracking. Environmental groups are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to protect California from dirty drilling, along with nearly 200,000 Californians who have signed petitions urging Governor Brown to ban fracking in the state.

“The bottom line is this: the numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said Waterhouse, “For public health and our environment, we need to put a stop to fracking.”                        

At the federal level, California Representatives Huffman, Lee, and Farr introduced the CLEANER Act (H.R. 2825)— a bill to close the loophole exempting oil and gas waste from the nation’s hazardous waste law.

 “Here in California, we can stop the fracking frenzy before it ever starts,” concluded Waterhouse. “But for places where fracking is already generating billions of gallons of toxic fracking waste and making people sick, it’s time for Washington to step in; officials can start by closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law.”


Environment California is a state-based, citizen-supported, environmental advocacy organization

working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future.