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Citing risks to public health and marine life, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the California Coastal Commission filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the federal government's inadequate analysis of offshore fracking's threats to the California coast.
Monday's suit comes after an oil company proposed to conduct California's first offshore frack in almost two years. The oil company, DCOR, LLC, hopes to frack an offshore well in the Santa Barbara Channel. The company would be allowed to discharge chemical-laden fracking flowback fluid into the ocean.
"Kudos to Kamala Harris for fighting to protect our ocean from fracking chemicals," said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "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."
Fearing expanded offshore oil development under the Trump administration, the center and the Wishtoyo Foundation last month filed their own offshore fracking lawsuit against U.S. officials. That suit points to offshore fracking pollution's threats to the ocean, public health, imperiled wildlife and sacred Chumash cultural resources and places.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement decided to allow offshore fracking in federal waters off California in May, after releasing a cursory environmental assessment of the practice.
The federal assessment failed to fully disclose the chemicals used by oil companies and their effects on marine life and water quality, citing information gaps, yet it acknowledged that those chemicals can 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.
Offshore fracking blasts vast volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals beneath the seafloor at pressures high enough to fracture rocks. The high pressures used in offshore fracking increase the risk of well failure and oil spills.
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. Oil companies in the Santa Barbara Channel have federal permission to dump up to 9 billion gallons of produced water—including fracking chemicals—into the ocean every year.
The Obama administration still has time 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."