The Obama administration has made a decision according to which well stimulation treatments, including fracking, in oil and gas activities offshore California pose no significant impact to the environment.
The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said the decision was made after they completed a comprehensive environmental analysis evaluating the potential impacts from the use of well stimulation treatments on the 23 oil and gas platforms currently in operation on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore California.
“The comprehensive analysis shows that these practices, conducted according to permit requirements, have minimal impact,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “As always, coordination with other key agencies, and input from the public and non-governmental organizations, were vitally important as we developed this assessment.”
The announcement from the U.S. BOEM and the BSEE ends a court-ordered settlement that placed a moratorium on offshore fracking and acidizing in federal waters off California.
According to BOEM, there have been 24 well stimulation treatments (21 of which involved hydraulic fracturing) on the OCS offshore California between 1982 and 2014, and these were conducted on four of the 23 platforms.
BOEM says that reservoirs on the OCS off Southern California tend to be much more permeable than onshore reservoirs, and are already highly naturally fractured. Therefore, little permeability enhancement has been required for their development. BOEM also says that the future use of Well Stimulation Treatments is expected to continue to be occasional rather than essential to hydrocarbon production from these platforms.
Following the decision on offshore fracking impact, Center for Biological Diversity said this was a move to “allow oil companies to resume offshore fracking and dumping fracking chemicals mixed with wastewater in California’s wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel.”
“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.”
“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.