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EDC Scores a Win for the Santa Barbara Channel

Fracking Permits Enjoined by Federal Judge

Blue whales in the Santa Barbara Channel are among the species temporarily protected from fracking chemicals by a federal judge's ruling after a lawsuit brought by the Environmental Defense Council and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

Since learning that more than 50 federal permits were issued to allow fracking in offshore California waters, Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center (EDC) has not let the matter rest. Today, a federal judge issued an injunction that prevents two federal agencies from approving permits that would allow fracking or acidizing in federal ocean waters.

The EDC and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper had sued in 2016, arguing that U.S. Fish and Wildlife had not been consulted regarding harm to endangered species before the permits were issued. The judge’s decision prohibits the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) from allowing “well stimulation treatments” in ocean oil extraction, which carry the potential to harm offshore creatures, like the blue whales or the southern sea otter, until Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service can review the chemical affects.

“We are pleased that the court has put a halt to the risky practice of fracking and acidizing off our coast,” said Maggie Hall, EDC staff attorney on the case. “This ruling ensures that no further permits will be issued until potential impacts to threatened and endangered species, including the Southern sea otter and Western snowy plover, are considered.” The Santa Barbara Channel, where two major Pacific currents meet, is widely regarded as one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world. The lawsuit sought to prevent contamination of the waters from chemicals that have yet to be fully identified in the fracking and acidizing processes, procedures the oil industry regards as trade secrets.

The State of California also argued that the California Coastal Commission had not been allowed to analyze the “well stimulation treatments” proposed, and the court upheld the state’s claim of potential harm to the coastal zone. That review would include a public hearing process.

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