California Attorney General sues US gov’t over offshore fracking risks

California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) have filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s analysis of offshore fracking’s threats to the California coast.

The lawsuit, filed last Monday, challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior’s final environmental assessment, which clears the way for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), acidizing, and other advanced well treatments on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California.

The Center for Biological Diversity said last week that Harris and the CCC cited risks to public health and marine life as the main threats to the California shore.

The lawsuit came after California’s first offshore frack in almost two years proposed by the oil company DCOR LLC. The company hopes to frack a well in the Santa Barbara Channel in the Pacific Ocean which separates Cali mainland from the Channel Islands where it would be allowed to discharge chemical-laden fracking flowback fluid into the ocean, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

According to the Center, to get more oil out of old wells, oil companies use toxic chemicals at high pressures to force oil out of subsea rock, producing large volumes of waste contaminated with chemicals that pose other health hazards. The high pressures used in offshore fracking increase the risk of well failure and oil spills.

Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “Offshore fracking raises deep concerns among the millions of people who live, work and play on California’s beautiful coast. Whether it’s done on land or off our shores, fracking is a toxic threat to our state’s air, water and wildlife.”

This is yet another lawsuit against fracking influenced by the possible expansion of offshore oil development under the coming Trump administration. Before Harris, the Center, and the Wishtoyo Foundation filed their offshore fracking lawsuit against U.S. officials last month. That suit points to offshore fracking pollution’s threats to the ocean, public health, imperiled wildlife and sacred Chumash cultural resources and places.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s environmental assessment, issued in May 2016, found that fracking poses “no significant impact.” The Attorney General said that this assessment runs contrary to substantial evidence in the record identifying significant environmental effects from fracking, as well as numerous other unique risks posed by offshore fracking.

“The Department of Interior’s failure to adequately consider these, and other, concerns associated with fracking off California’s coastline prompted the Attorney General to file this lawsuit alleging violations of federal environmental protection laws,” the Attorney General’s office said.

The Center claims that the assessment failed to disclose the chemicals used by oil companies and their effects on marine life and water quality, yet it acknowledged that those chemicals could be hazardous. The assessment admitted that offshore fracking will prolong offshore oil and gas activities, extending the life of aging infrastructure and increasing the risk of yet more devastating oil spills.

The California Council on Science and Technology identified fracking chemicals to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals while oil companies in the Santa Barbara Channel have federal permission to dump up to 9 billion gallons of produced water polluted by fracking chemicals yearly.

The environmental organization still hopes that the Obama administration will forestall expanded drilling and fracking off the California coast under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the president authority to “withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the Outer Continental Shelf.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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