The back and forth over the fate of fracking from federal oil platforms in the Pacific Ocean has tilted back toward environmental territory. The last move by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to seek a rehearing, this time before all the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges, was tossed out on Monday.
Previously, three of the judges had heard the DOJ’s arguments countering those of Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and other parties to the lawsuit who were seeking more in-depth review of the effects of fracking and acidizing chemicals on the ocean environment, a review by U.S. Fish & Wildlife for effects on the threatened Southern sea otter, and a consistency review with State of California regulations by the California Coastal Commission. The three ruled in favor of the environmental appellees, who brought the original lawsuit. The DOJ then came back to ask for an en banc hearing — usually defined as all the judges, but the Ninth has 29 judges, so en banc hearings are generally smaller — to review the matter again. That petition was rejected on September 26.
It’s possible the government would petition the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Linda Krop, lead counsel for the EDC. Otherwise, the case goes back to the Central District Court in Los Angeles for a “new decision in line with the Court of Appeals decision,” she said.