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CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good

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Oil companies are playing risky business again, this time with our oceans. California’s waters and coastline are the latest targets to be exposed. Despite a moratorium on new oil leases offshore of California, old leases that should be retiring are instead being reignited with dangerous fracking technologies.

Fracking and other unconventional production techniques, such as fracture acidizing, pose an urgent threat to water quality and coastal communities. To get more oil out of old wells, oil companies use toxic chemicals at high pressures to force oil out of subsea rock, producing large volumes of waste contaminated with chemicals that are known carcinogens or pose other human health hazards. Using new fracking technologies on aging infrastructure also increases the risks of accidents and oil spills — and has been linked to air pollution and earthquakes.

Offshore fracking poses unacceptable risks for public health and the environment, placing at risk marine ecosystems and the people and species that depend on them. Offshore fracking in California threatens blue whales, elephant seals and leatherback sea turtles because toxic oil and fracking chemicals pollute key habitat — besides contributing to climate change, which of course threatens all species on Earth.


Banning offshore fracking is the best way to protect California’s coast and wildlife from this perilous practice, but despite the dangers these fracking activities have so far gone unregulated and without environmental review. More than half of the platforms in federal waters off the coast of California dump their wastewater into the ocean, which can include toxic fracking chemicals. In 2013 the Center initiated a campaign to obtain a moratorium on offshore fracking. Based on the latest research and science, the Center has sought a ban on fracking through advocacy with state and federal agencies that should be scrutinizing the practice. In February 2014 we petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the discharge of fracking fluids into the ocean and to strengthen ocean discharge criteria.

Halting California offshore fracking is especially important because waters off this state’s coast are crucial habitat for blue whales, which depend on the Santa Barbara Channel for foraging. Offshore fracking is also taking place near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and some newly designated “marine protected areas” — both of which host numerous endangered species very vulnerable to pollution, habitat destruction and other threats posed by fracking.


Blue whale photo courtesy Flickr Commons/SLiM