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Lawsuit Likely as Regulators Ignore Risks, Lift Fracking Moratorium in Federal Waters

LOS ANGELES— The Obama administration yesterday finalized plans to allow oil companies to resume offshore fracking and dumping fracking chemicals mixed with wastewater in California’s wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel.

Offshore oil drilling platform in the San Pedro Channel off Seal Beach, California. (Photo: PublicDomainPictures.net)

Offshore oil drilling platform in the San Pedro Channel off Seal Beach, California. (Photo: PublicDomainPictures.net)

Yesterday’s announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ends a court-ordered settlement that placed a moratorium on offshore fracking and acidizing in federal waters off California.

“The Obama administration is once again putting California’s beautiful coast in the oil industry’s crosshairs,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Oceans program. “Our beaches and wildlife face a renewed threat from fracking chemicals and oil spills. New legal action may be the only way to get federal officials to do their jobs and protect our ocean from offshore fracking.”

Offshore fracking was halted in January after a Center lawsuit challenged the federal government’s rubber-stamping of fracking permits without any analysis of threats to wildlife and ocean ecosystems. The case resulted in a settlement agreement that required the Obama administration to stop authorizing offshore fracking and acidizing until federal officials completed a review of the environmental impacts of the practices.

But yesterday’s finding that offshore fracking has no significant environmental impact glosses over the serious hazards of fracking and fails to answer key questions about the risks of this controversial oil-extraction technique.

Offshore fracking blasts vast volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals beneath the seafloor at pressures high enough to fracture rocks. At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish, Center scientists have found.

An oil drilling platform off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA. (Photo Credit: TheConduqtor / WikiMedia Commons)

An oil drilling platform off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA. (Photo Credit: TheConduqtor / WikiMedia Commons)

“It’s disturbing that officials charged with protecting our oceans are shrugging off these risks and authorizing oil companies to resume this dangerous practice. The California coast can’t take another oil spill or a deluge of toxic fracking chemicals,” Sakashita said.

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