Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 17, 2016

Contact: Kristen Monsell, (510) 844-7137,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Blue Whales,
Other Endangered Animals From Offshore Fracking in California

Federal Government Authorized Fracks From Oil Platforms Without
Analyzing Threats to Rare Whales, Sea Otters, Turtles, Birds or Fish

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement for approving fracking in federal waters off the California coast without evaluating the dangers to blue whales, sea otters, and other threatened and endangered wildlife.

Sea otter
Sea otter photo by Michael "Mike" L. Baird.

“Every offshore frack puts California’s wonderful coastal wildlife at risk from toxic chemicals or another deadly oil spill,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “It’s disturbing to see the federal government ignore its legal responsibility to carefully consider the dangers of offshore fracking and prolonged drilling to whales, sea otters and other species already struggling to survive.” 

The bureaus decided to allow offshore fracking in May, after releasing a cursory environmental assessment of the practice. The federal assessment acknowledged potential threats to imperiled wildlife, including toxic risks to sea turtles and seabirds from fracking chemicals and the danger that fracking support vessels could run over sea turtles and whales. A recent study by Oregon State University researchers cites collision with ships as a reason blue whales have not recovered.

The federal assessment also admitted that offshore fracking will prolong offshore oil and gas activities, extending the life of aging infrastructure and increasing the risk of yet more oil spills. A coastal pipeline that ruptured last year near Santa Barbara spilled more than 140,000 gallons of crude, killing hundreds of marine mammals and birds.   

But the bureaus failed to consult with the expert wildlife agencies on the risks these activities pose to threatened and endangered coastal wildlife as required by the Endangered Species Act.

The Center’s notice seeks to compel the bureaus to suspend approval of all offshore fracking and other well stimulations off California’s coast until completion of a comprehensive analysis of the impacts on imperiled species under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

At least 10 fracking chemicals used in offshore fracking in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish, Center scientists have 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.

Oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel have federal permission to dump up to 9 billion gallons of produced water per year — including fracking chemicals — into the ocean.

The federal environmental assessment was issued as part of a legal settlement resolving a prior Center lawsuit over the federal government’s approval of fracking from offshore platforms in the wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel without complying with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Today’s 60-day notice of intent to sue is required before a lawsuit can be filed to compel the bureaus to comply with the Endangered Species Act for their new decision to authorize offshore fracking.

“Offshore fracking doesn’t belong off the California coast, and the federal government certainly has no right to let the oil industry frack in these waters without fully analyzing the risks this toxic technique poses to imperiled marine animals,” Monsell said.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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