Feds Sued Again over Offshore Fracking

EDC, Channelkeeper Try and Block New Permits

Venoco's Platform Holly

The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper announced they are suing to block the federal Department of the Interior from issuing new permits for offshore fracking in Southern California and the Santa Barbara Channel, arguing that the environmental analysis conducted fails to meet minimum federal standards. The lawsuit targets the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which concluded that fracking and ocean acidification pose no significant impact to the environment when it comes to air quality, water quality, or endangered species.

Linda Krop, EDC chief counsel, gave the environmental analysis “a 10” for inadequacy. She argued that the regulatory agencies arrived at the “no impact” conclusion only by assuming there would be minimal fracking or acidification taking place in federal waters off the coast. Krop explained that in prior litigation involving the same issue, both ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, as intervenors, argued that fracking and acidification could generate substantial volumes of oil and gas. Likewise, Krop objected that the Department of Interior never consulted with agencies charged with protecting the 25 endangered species that could be affected.

Krop said the feds long denied any fracking had been taking place in coastal waters when it was subsequently revealed — by the EDC’s Freedom of Information Act request — that it has been an industry practice since the 1980s. Federal oversight agencies refused to require any environmental scrutiny before issuing fracking permits until sued by the EDC two years ago to do so. That litigation ultimately settled when the feds agreed to conduct a one-size-fits-all environmental analysis that could be applied to any and all requests for coastal fracking and acidification. That analysis was completed this past May and is the focus of this latest legal action.

Krop said that most of the fracking and acidification is taking place off the coast of Santa Barbara and San Pedro. It’s her belief that two permits have been issued since May. If successful, the EDC litigation would stop new permits until further environmental analysis has been completed.


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