California’s Getting Fracked seeks to illuminate some of the impacts of fracking and other high–intensity production techniques in California. We limit the type of wells in this visualization to those that use “well–stimulation techniques” (including hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, gravel-packing, acid matrix, and acid fracturing), as well as those designated as Class II Waste Injection Wells, which are permitted by the Department of Oil & Gas and Geothermal Resources to dispose of waste from these well–stimulation techniques.

Well–stimulation techniques raise some of the most serious environmental and health concerns in the oil and gas industry, and their use is increasing rapidly throughout the nation. Our visualization does not include other types of oil and gas wells, including those that use “enhanced oil–recovery techniques” owing to varying definitions of these wells and their associated impacts.

The data used to visualize the toxic chemical reports for each well in the Los Angeles Basin comes from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD)1. The district also provided information on whether these chemicals were considered air toxic contaminants.

To determine the presence of water contaminants in the list of chemicals in the SCAQMD database, we used the EPA’s Clean Water Act Toxic Pollutants list and the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water list. To show the health effects of the identified water and air toxic contaminants in the SCAQMD data, we used the TEDX Endocrine Disruptor Exchange. For some chemicals not listed in this exchange, we used the ChemIDplus database as well as the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act List. We also relied on the Air Toxics One–Year Report: Oil Companies Used Millions of Pounds of Air–Polluting Chemicals in Los Angeles Basin Neighborhoods for information on the health effects of some of these chemicals.

The data used to visualize the well–stimulation techniques in the rest of California was collected from FracFocus2, the SCAQMD, and DOGGR within the California Department of Conservation. The data used to visualize the Class II Waste Injection data was collected from DOGGR within the California Department of Conservation.

The data used to visualize the location of groundwater aquifers in California was collected from the Groundwater Information Center Map Interface at the California Department of Water Resources.

We mapped the location of the Miocene Era Sedimentary Basin (using data from the US Shale Plays Map at the Energy Information Administration within the U.S. Department of Energy) to visualize where fracking has the potential to expand in California. This basin is the source rock formation for oil in the San Joaquin Valley and includes the Monterey Shale Play, which is also a source of future expansion.

We did not include the most recent chemical reporting data made available by California law, SB4. SB4 came into effect on January 1st, 2014 and requires that DOGGR collect basic information about fracking, including where and when it is happening, what chemicals are being used, and how much water is being used. We recommend looking into this data to further examine the toxic chemical usage throughout California.

Note: A recent article highlights several shortcomings in SB4, revealing that regulators do not have enough capacity to enforce the law and oil companies have inaccurately reported key information.

1. In June of 2013, the South Coast Air Quality Management District began requiring all oil and gas companies to report the location and types of chemicals used in well-stimulation operations. These well operations include hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, gravel packing, matrix acid, acid fracturing, and maintenance acidizing. All of these are well-stimulation techniques, except for maintenance acidizing. We did not exclude maintenance acidizing from our visualization, since it would have interfered with the accuracy of our reporting.

2. The data collected from the FracFocus website have several limitations since the site does not include data on all fracking and other stimulation techniques. The website came into operation in 2011, after many wells had already been fracked, and in most cases oil and gas operators have not retroactively entered information on older wells. In California, reporting to FracFocus is not mandatory and therefore the website only takes in account wells that are voluntarily reported since 2011.

Sources & datasets

California Dept. of Water Resources. (2014). Groundwater Information Center Map Interface. DATASET: AQUIFERS

Center for Biological Diversity, Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles, Communities for A Better Environment, and the Center for Race, Poverty & the Environment. (June 2014). Air Toxics One–Year Report: Oil Companies Used Millions of Pounds of Air–Polluting Chemicals in Los Angeles Basin Neighborhoods. DATASETS: EVENT REPORTS, CHEMICAL REPORTS, TOXINS HEALTH EFFECTS

Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources. (2014). Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Notices Index. [Well stimulation treatment under the interim regulations supporting SB4].

Energy Information Association. (2011). United States Department of Energy. [Data for the US Shale Plays Map.] DATASETS: MONTEREY SHALE PLAY, MIOCENE ERA SEDIMENTARY BASIN

FracTracker Alliance. (2014). Dataset for all stimulated wells in California. California: Kyle Ferrar. DATASET: STIMULATED WELLS

Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact. (2011). FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. [Hydraulic Fracturing Disclosure and Education website].

National Institute of Health. (2013). ChemIDPlus. [ToxNet: Toxicology Data Network Database]. DATASET: TOXINS HEALTH EFFECTS

South Coast Air Quality Management District. (2014). Rule 1148.2. [SCAQMD Rules and Regulations, Chemical and Event Reports].

TedX Endocrine Disruptor Exchange. (2011). Health Effects Spreadsheet and Summary.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (May 2009). National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. [Drinking Water Contaminants].

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (1981). Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. (401.15) [Clean Water Act, Title 40: Protection of Environment, Toxic Pollutants].