Courts Ban Fracking Off California Coast  | Rigzone


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A federal appeals court has affirmed a lower court decision that prohibits offshore fracking in federal waters off the California coast.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking in offshore oil and gas wells in all leased federal waters off California.

“This is an amazing victory for California’s coast and marine life,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fracking is incredibly dangerous and has no place in our oceans. This decision will prevent more toxic chemicals from poisoning fish, sea otters, and other marine life. And it brings us a step closer to ending offshore drilling once and for all.”

The decision upholds a district court’s 2018 ruling that the Interior Department ‘violated the Endangered Species Act in allowing fracking and acidizing in federal waters off California without carefully studying the risks to endangered species like sea otters.’

The order also reversed the lower court’s ruling that ‘the department’s cursory environmental assessment satisfied its obligations to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of allowing these extreme forms of oil extraction,’ finding instead that the agency must prepare a comprehensive environmental analysis.

The appeals court order prohibits Interior from issuing fracking permits until it completes Endangered Species Act consultation and an environmental impact statement that ‘fully and fairly evaluate[s] all reasonable alternatives.’

In doing so the three-judge panel noted that Interior ‘disregarded necessary caution when dealing with the unknown effects of well stimulation treatments and the data gaps associated with a program of regular fracking offshore California to increase production and extend well life.’

“Protecting the health and integrity of our coastal waters is essential to our commitment to conserving the marine ecosystem upon which Chumash people have thrived for more than 10,000 years,” said Mati Waiya, executive director of the Wishtoyo Foundation, a native led non-profit dedicated to the protection of Chumash lifeways and cultural resources. “We all celebrate this decision that honors the rights of our people and protects their precious maritime resources.”

The appeals court also held that the Interior Department violated the Coastal Zone Management Act when it failed to let the California Coastal Commission determine whether offshore fracking is consistent with California’s coastal management program.

At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including marine mammals and fish, the Center for Biological Diversity scientists 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.

It is worth noting that the man who won the verdict was the California Attorney General Rob Bonta. He said in a statement: “Today’s decision is a win for our communities, our environment, and the rule of law. Offshore drilling – particularly fracking – pollutes our waterways, damages our environment, and exacerbates climate change. We saw the risks of offshore drilling firsthand with the Huntington Beach oil spill last year, and we see it every day in the form of the climate crisis.

“Despite this, the Department of Interior found that authorizing fracking off the California coast would have no impact on our coastlines or oceans. As the Ninth Circuit found today, this is fundamentally untrue. I applaud the Court for holding the Department of Interior to account for its flawed environmental analysis and for strengthening the lower court’s decision to protect our coasts from harmful fracking,” Bonta added.

The California Attorney General’s Office reminded that it, along with the California Coastal Commission, filed a lawsuit in December 2016 challenging Interior’s final environmental assessment, which would have cleared the way for fracking, acidizing, and other advanced well treatments on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California.

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