Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 4, 2014

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

Lawsuit Launched Against Offshore Fracking in California's Santa Barbara Channel

Federal Government Rubber-stamping Fracks Without Analyzing Threat to
Wildlife, Coastal Communities

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Interior Department for violating three federal laws by rubber-stamping offshore fracking in California’s Santa Barbara Channel without evaluating its polluting effects on coastal communities or blue whales, sea otters and other marine wildlife.

The notice faults government officials for allowing oil companies to frack at least 21 times in federal waters off California’s coast with no public consultation, no analysis of the environmental risks, and no determination of whether fracking is consistent with California’s Coastal Management Program.

Several offshore fracks revealed in federal documents took place in an area that’s part of a proposed national marine sanctuary. The government approved at least four fracks just last year.

“The federal government’s turning a blind eye as offshore fracking threatens to poison our beautiful beaches and coastal waters,” said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney and director of the Center’s oceans program. “We need offshore fracking stopped immediately before chemical contamination or an oil spill devastates California’s coastal communities and kills sea otters and other endangered marine wildlife.”

The oil industry has federal permission to dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including chemical-laden fracking fluid, into the ocean off California’s coast every year. Federal officials cannot even say how often fracking has happened the Santa Barbara Channel because the government has not adequately tracked the practice.

The Center’s notice seeks to compel the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to suspend all hydraulic fracturing off California’s coast and conduct a full analysis of fracking pollution’s threats to wildlife, public health, and the environment.

If the government fails to act, the Center plans legal action under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.  

Center scientists recently released a report outlining the dangers of toxic chemicals, air pollution and earthquake risk linked to offshore fracking. At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used offshore in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish. Fracking in the state employs high concentrations of chemicals, including substances acutely toxic to mammals, according to new data from the California Council on Science and Technology.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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