Feds Sued Over Fracking

Center for Biological Diversity Claims Feds "Rubber Stamping" Permits

The Center for Biological Diversity has launched a lawsuit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, arguing that each of these agencies and their respective directors have violated three federal laws by “rubber stamping” permits to frack without properly analyzing the implications of the practice on offshore environments.

According to the complaint filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), “the impacts associated with offshore fracking include the discharge of toxic wastewater, the emission of hazardous air pollutants, increased risk of earthquakes and oil spills, and threats to a variety of marine species.” (Hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as “fracking,” involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to create cracks through which oil, gas and other liquids can flow.)

Filed in the U.S. District Court of California, the lawsuit seeks to prohibit the federal government from issuing and implementing permits allowing offshore fracking until it complies with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). Fifteen platforms that could be affected are located in the Santa Barbara Channel.

The CBD alleges that the federal government doesn’t make drilling permits publicly available or give notice of offshore fracking activity, in turn preventing the public and state coastal agencies from sharing their input about drilling applications. According to Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney and director of the Center’s oceans’ program, the California Coastal Commission wasn’t even aware of the number of permits issuing offshore fracking until recently, and only discovered the levels of fracking activity as a result of journalism on the subject, rather than via federal notice. The lawsuit also claims that federal agencies have failed to provide NEPA-required environmental assessments for offshore fracking under the exception of “categorical exclusion,” a provision of that act that waives such a report if the practice in question demonstrates “no significant environmental impact.”

“Fracking has caused terrible damage on land, and it clearly has no place in our oceans,” Sakashita continued. “If federal officials follow the law and take a hard look at the risks, they’ll have to conclude that offshore fracking is too big a gamble.” A representative for the Department of the Interior declined to comment on the pending litigation.


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