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Big Victory in Fight to Protect California’s Coast From Offshore Fracking

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Santa Barbara's Platform Holly. Glenn Beltz / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal court on Friday rejected the Trump administration's effort to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the approval of fracking in federal waters off California.

The suit—filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Wishtoyo Foundation—notes that the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act by failing to carefully study offshore fracking's risks before allowing this dangerous oil-extraction practice. The suit points to offshore fracking pollution's threats to the marine environment, public health, imperiled wildlife and sacred Chumash cultural resources and places.


"This is a big victory in the fight to protect California's coast from offshore fracking's toxic chemicals," said Kristen Monsell, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. "We're glad the court rejected the Trump administration's baseless attempt to dismiss efforts to force a hard look at offshore fracking's risks. The law clearly requires the feds to carefully study and reduce threats from offshore fracking, not blow them off so oil companies can keep using this hazardous process in fragile coastal environments."

The Trump administration argued that the approval of offshore fracking and acidizing at all active oil and gas leases in the Pacific Ocean was not a final agency action reviewable by the court. In rejecting these arguments, the court noted that federal defendants' challenged decision allowed the use of offshore fracking and acidizing "without restriction" at all active leases in the Pacific Ocean.

Oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel have federal permission to annually dump up to nine billion gallons of produced water—including fracking chemicals—into the ocean. At least 10 fracking chemicals used in offshore fracking in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish, Center for Biological Diversity scientists have found. The California Council on Science and Technology has identified some common fracking chemicals to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals.

The court also rejected the Trump administration's attempt to dismiss a similar lawsuit filed by the state of California. The state's case also argues that the approval of offshore fracking without carefully studying the risks violates the National Environmental Policy Act, and that federal officials violated the Coastal Zone Management Act by failing to determine if offshore fracking is consistent with California's coastal management program before allowing the practice.

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