EPA to Require Offshore Fracking Discharge Reports

New Rule Affects Rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel

Starting in March, offshore oil companies operating along the California coast must report any release into the ocean of materials used for hydraulic fracturing, the controversial resource-extraction procedure colloquially known as “fracking” that has caused concern across the country.

This new requirement was announced by the Environmental Protection Agency last week, a couple months after investigations by and the Associated Press revealed that the practice had been used sporadically by the rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel, despite no special review to do so.

Though calling it a step in the right direction, environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center — which also issued its own extensive report on offshore fracking last year — are continuing their call that the practice be banned outright until further review.

Carpinteria-based Venoco Inc. was one of the companies that had fracked offshore, employing the technique from December 2009 to January 2010 via Platform Gail, but the company does not foresee this new rule affecting them. “Venoco isn’t currently using hydraulic fracturing technology in the offshore area and we don’t have plans for it in the future,” said Venoco spokesperson Lisa Rivas in an email. “We did not see the results we expected, so we did not continue.”

In related news, environmental groups delivered nearly 100,000 public comments to the California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources on Tuesday, opposing the state’s newly proposed rules for regulating fracking onshore; a protest was also held in Santa Maria to mark that opposition. And next month in Pismo Beach, the California Coastal Commission will hear a report from its staff on what options it has on the table fo regulating the practice, which has occurred so far only in federal waters.

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