April 3, 2024
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Government sued over offshore fracking in Santa Barbara Channel


Updated on Nov. 18 at 12 p.m.:

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the federal government for permitting offshore fracking in the Santa Barbara Channel and along the California Coast, alleging that it did not perform a proper environmental assessment.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Nov. 15, seeks a court order prohibiting the federal government from approving fracking in federal waters off California’s coast unless and until it complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

The suit was filed after President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, which the center worries will lead to new drilling.

The center claims that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement failed to fully disclose how the chemicals released during the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks impact marine life and water quality.

“The bureaus issued a grossly inadequate, illogical and uniformed programmatic environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact,” the lawsuit reads. “The programmatic environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact fail to take the legally required ‘hard look’ at the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the bureaus’ decision to authorize offshore fracking and other well stimulation on the Pacific outer continental shelf, and fail to analyze a reasonable range of alternatives to that decision.”

The BSEE told the Business Times that it would not comment on pending litigation.

The Environmental Defense Center and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper filed a similar suit on Nov. 11 that aims to block the federal government from issuing new permits for offshore fracking in Southern California and the Santa Barbara Channel due to a lacking environmental review.

The EDC previously sued BOEM and BSEE regarding the agencies allowing more than 50 permits for offshore well stimulation, including fracking and acidizing, without an environmental review. That lawsuit led to a settlement agreement requiring the agencies to prepare the first ever environmental review of offshore fracking and acidizing, the EDC said.

Fracking or acidizing would have no significant impacts on the marine environment, nor would an accidental release of fluids during the well stimulation treatments, the BSEE’s programmatic environmental assessment concluded in May.

“Discharges will not compromise the biological productivity of coastal waters or inhibit the maintenance of optimum populations of marine organisms as required by Sections 30230 and 30231of the California Coastal Act,” the 302-page assessment reads.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.