Challenging Fracking in California

Fracking is a controversial procedure used by drillers in California to extract deposits of oil and gas from depleted wells or from geologic formations where conventional drilling is ineffective. Hundreds of thousands to millions of gallons of water are mixed with toxic chemicals and injected down each well at high pressure, fracturing the underground rock formation to force the oil or gas to flow to the surface.

Case Overview

The country is in the midst of an oil and gas drilling boom, aided by the controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” As fracking has increased, reports of poisoned water, polluted air and other environmental harms are also on the rise.

In California, where fracking is accelerating, rubber-stamped permits for oil drilling are the norm. The government isn’t paying any attention to the negative environmental and public health impacts of fracking, even though oil and gas companies are using this controversial form of drilling at unprecedented rates in the state.

Earthjustice went to court to force the state agency responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry to ensure that public health and the environment in California are protected.

As the sun sets on another California day, a flare burns in an oil field near Bakersfield, CA.
A flare burns in a California oil field. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

Case Updates

pumpjacks extract oil from an oilfield in Kern County, Calif.
October 19, 2016 Article

Oil and Gas Threat Map Shows At-Risk Populations

A government bureau wants to open up one million acres of central California land to more fracking, but an Earthjustice lawsuit shows that the bureau needs to think before it acts.

Oil field pumpjacks in Kern County, California.
December 17, 2015 Article

Central Valley Board Continues to Mix Oil and Water

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board opted not to stop a corporation from tainting groundwater with fracking waste until 2018.

Robert Couse-Baker/CC BY 2.0
June 11, 2015 Article

California’s Drive for Deeper Water Leaves State on Shaky Ground

As water supplies dry up, groundwater drilling is leading to collapsed bridges, cracked irrigation canals and pipes, and twisted roads and railways. In some places, the ground is sinking nearly one foot a year.