Project at a Glance

Title: Characterizing the Potential Health and Equity Impacts of Oil and Gas Extraction and Production Activities in California

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Morello-Frosch, Rachel

Contractor: UC Berkeley

Contract Number: 18RD018


Research Program Area: Health & Exposure

Topic Areas: Health Effects of Air Pollution


Research Summary:

Oil and gas development (OGD) has been ongoing in California (CA) since 1900. Concerns about health impacts began to emerge in the United States around 2002 with rapid increase of unconventional OGD methods, like hydraulic fracturing (HF) and horizontal drilling. However, no studies have investigated the environmental health implications of OGD on birth outcomes in CA. In the event of well failures or inappropriate storage, fossil fuels may leak into the environment. In the case of natural gas, large-scale methane emissions can occur. Exposure to a combination of hazards including air and water pollutants, noise, odors, excessive and inappropriate lighting, and undesired land use changes could lead to health consequences like adverse birth outcomes. Among the hazards, the emerging evidence of surface and groundwater contamination related to OGD suggests that OGD could potentially threaten drinking water systems, especially small and domestic well systems that primarily serve rural and unincorporated areas in the state. Environmental justice stakeholders have also raised concerns regarding the equity implications of the potential air pollution, drinking water and health impacts of OGD and production activities.

This study seeks to inform the potential health implications of OGD among a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse population in urban, suburban, and rural settings in California, through three separate analyses:

-Analysis 1: Oil and Gas Development and Production and Birth Outcomes
-Analysis 2: Drinking Water Vulnerability Associated with OGD Activities
-Analysis 3: Methane Super-Emitters-Preliminary Environmental Justice and Health Assessment


For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753

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