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Environmental Group Condemns Federal Government’s Flawed Analysis Ignoring Risks of Offshore Fracking & Acidizing In California

May 27, 2016

Platform Holly. Photo by Erin Feinblatt.

Platform Holly. Photo by Erin Feinblatt.

Santa Barbara—The Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) announced their disappointment with the Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment issued today by federal agencies regarding the risky practices of fracking and acidizing from offshore oil platforms in southern California, including the Santa Barbara Channel.  The Final Assessment, produced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”), fails to properly analyze and disclose the significant impacts that these practices have on water quality, air quality, and marine wildlife.  EDC fundamentally disagrees with the Assessment’s conclusion that these practices do not have significant impacts, and that further analysis is not warranted. 

EDC and Surfrider Foundation submitted a comment letter illustrating numerous fundamental flaws in the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment that was released in April, and requested that the agencies conduct more comprehensive environmental review.  Unfortunately, the government did not correct its course and has again overlooked potentially significant impacts.

“Fracking and acidizing present new and unstudied risks to the environment, such as the impacts on marine wildlife caused by dumping toxic frac fluids into the open ocean. EDC is committed to ensuring the analysis of these practices is robust and legally adequate,” said Maggie Hall, Staff Attorney with EDC. 

The Draft and Final Assessments are hard fought requirements of EDC’s recent lawsuit settlement with BOEM and BSEE, and mark the agencies’ first attempt at analyzing the significant risks that these practices pose to water and air quality and the many endangered species within the Santa Barbara Channel, including blue, fin, and humpback whales, and the southern sea otter. 

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the environmental assessment process is a preliminary step in analyzing and disclosing the impacts that result from enhanced drilling activities such as fracking and acidizing.  The Final Assessment incorrectly concludes that offshore fracking and acidizing from the 22 southern California offshore oil platforms has had and will continue to have no environmental impact.  EDC and Surfrider’s comment letter on the Draft Assessment explains that, in fact, offshore well stimulation does pose a risk to the environment and, as such, the agencies are required to prepare a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”).

In addition to the environmental review process, under the legal settlement, BOEM and BSEE have also committed to developing an electronic filing and public notification web site for offshore drilling permit applications, and must post completed applications to the system within five days. 

Acidizing and fracking are dangerous oil production processes involving the injection of large amounts of water and chemicals into the ground in order to fracture or dissolve rock. In both processes, many chemicals remain undisclosed under “trade secret” laws, but are known to pose risks at all stages of use, from transportation to and from the platforms, to disposal of such chemicals through underground injection or direct discharge to the ocean. More information can be found in EDC’s Dirty Water: Fracking Offshore California report.

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Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties.  Founded in response to the 1969 Oil Spill more than 40 years ago, EDC has represented itself and other organizations to advance environmental protection.  Program areas include protecting coast and ocean resources, open spaces and wildlife, and human and environmental health.  Learn more about EDC at www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org.

 

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