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For Immediate Release, October 3, 2013

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 632-5308,

Federal Government Urged to Halt Offshore Oil Fracking in California Coastal Waters,
Analyze Dangers to Whales, Sea Turtles

SAN FRANCISCO— The federal government is violating a key national environmental law by allowing offshore fracking in waters off California’s coast without analyzing risks to human health and endangered marine species, according to a notice letter filed today by the Center for Biological Diversity. The notice was filed with two federal agencies in charge of regulating offshore oil development; if the government fails to act, the Center plans legal action. 

A media investigation recently revealed that oil companies are fracking in federal waters in the wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel, where a 1969 oil spill polluted coastal waters and beaches with millions of gallons of oil. Federal officials cannot even say how often fracking has happened in California’s offshore waters.

“Oil companies are fracking California’s beautiful coastal waters with dangerous chemicals, and federal officials seem barely aware of the dangers,” said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney and director of the Center’s oceans program. “We need an immediate halt to offshore fracking before chemical pollution or an oil spill poisons the whales and other wildlife that depend on California’s rich coastal waters.”

The Center’s notice letter seeks to compel the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to suspend any operations involving hydraulic fracturing off California’s coast and conduct a full National Environmental Policy Act analysis of fracking pollution’s threats to environment and to wildlife in the area, which hosts the world’s densest summer concentrations of blue whales. Despite the federal shutdown, the bureaus will continue many operations, including processing development plans and applications for drilling permits.

A Center legal team recently won a landmark lawsuit that halted fracking and drilling on thousands of acres of federally managed onshore public lands in California. A federal court held that the federal government violated NEPA by leasing onshore public lands for oil and gas development without adequately reviewing the risks of fracking, and offshore permit approvals suffer from the same legal deficiency.

At least a dozen offshore oil wells in California state waters have also been fracked in the past three years, according to records uncovered by the Center. These records show that offshore fracking in California employs dangerous substances, including 2-Butoxyethanol, methanol and other cancer-causing chemicals.

During offshore fracking, a significant amount of fracking fluid returns to the surface and is either discharged into the ocean or transported for onshore ground injection. At sea, these chemicals enter the marine ecosystem and threaten marine life and sensitive habitats.

One scientific study found that 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer and mutations, and recent research by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey found that leaks of toxic fracking fluid caused a major fish kill in a Kentucky creek.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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