The California Council on Science & Technology (“CCST”) recently released its Independent Study of well stimulation in California. The report was prepared for the California Natural Resources Agency in response to Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”).

The Study notes the following key points:

  • Hydraulic fracturing in California does not use a lot of fresh water compared to other states and other human uses.
  • Available evidence indicates that impacts caused directly by hydraulic fracturing or acid stimulation or by activities directly supporting these operations appear small.
  • No recorded negative impacts from hydraulic fracturing chemical use in California were found; however, governmental reporting should be expanded.
  • Additives used in hydraulic fracturing and acid stimulation should be evaluated to reduce any potential adverse impacts.
  • The potential impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing are similar to oil development practices generally, even without the use of hydraulic fracturing.
  • There is a potential for additives used in hydraulic fracturing and acid stimulation to react with other elements underground causing the chemistry to change over time.
  • Fluid injected in the process of hydraulic fracturing will not likely cause earthquakes of concern.
  • Oil produced in California using hydraulic fracturing emits less greenhouse gas per barrel than the average barrel imported to California.

The Study concludes that there are gaps and inconsistencies in the available data sources, which make it difficult to determine the impacts of well stimulation in California.  Through new research and data collection, regulators will be able to better assess the potential impacts to the environment.

The Executive Director of the CCST, Dr. Susan Hackwood said “We applaud state leaders for seeking an independent scientific assessment to inform policy choices about hydraulic fracturing and acid stimulation. CCST was created as an independent organization via the Legislature to do exactly this kind of careful scientific evaluation.”

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, stated “While there is much to absorb in the 858-pages of the report, the overarching conclusion is that no science-based evidence was identified that hydraulic fracturing in California has harmed the environment in any significant way.”