Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

Acidizing  and fracking are both potentially dangerous oil production processes involving the injection of large amounts of water and chemicals below the seafloor in order to fracture or dissolve rock.  title=
Acidizing and fracking are both potentially dangerous oil production processes involving the injection of large amounts of water and chemicals below the seafloor in order to fracture or dissolve rock.
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Source: Santa Barbara Channel Keeper

Nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Representative Salud Carbajal, filed a brief on Friday in support of appeals filed by the Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (“SBCK”), the State of California, and other environmental groups, in their case challenging federal government agencies’ approval of offshore fracking and acidizing.  The brief, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, explains why the federal government should have conducted a thorough environmental review before approving such activities.

In June 2019, EDC and SBCK appealed to the Ninth Circuit to defend their November 2018 court victory that currently prohibits the use of fracking and acidizing offshore California, and to seek full environmental review of the impacts of these dangerous practices on the local environment, including harm to wildlife and air and water quality. Acidizing and fracking are both potentially dangerous oil production processes involving the injection of large amounts of water and chemicals below the seafloor in order to fracture or dissolve rock. Much of the fracking and acidizing that has been conducted offshore California has been done in the Santa Barbara Channel. 

The Channel’s biological diversity is so rich that the area has been called “North America’s Galapagos,” and the area harbors numerous threatened and endangered species, including blue, fin, and humpback whales, and the southern sea other. Not only does the Channel provide excellent opportunities for fisheries, tourism, and other recreation, it also includes the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Park, as well as federal and state Marine Protected Areas. It is also our home, and the site of some of the most beloved and ecologically important coastal open space left in the country.

The case is fully briefed by the parties and scheduled for oral argument in court on October 18, 2021. On Friday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives weighed in as “Amici Curiae” or “friends of the Court” to register their and their constituents’ concerns about the impacts of these dangerous practices and the failure of federal government agencies to conduct full environmental review before issuing permits to companies like ExxonMobil, Venoco, Inc, and others.

“Santa Barbara knows all too well how devastating an oil spill can be to marine life and to our local economy. In fact, the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill served as a catalyst for the environmentalist movement and led to the creation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Rep. Carbajal. “I am proud to support the Environmental Defense Center’s lawsuit calling on our federal agencies to complete the research necessary to understand the potential impact fracking would have on our ocean and community. Allowing federal agencies to rush through this process would set a dangerous precedent.”

“This input from members of the U.S. House of Representatives underscores the significant and potentially devastating threats that offshore fracking and acidizing poses to the sensitive Santa Barbara Channel region,” said Maggie Hall, Senior Attorney at EDC. “We are committed to ensuring the federal government fully discloses the impacts of these practices.” 

“The impacts of offshore fracking and acidizing on local wildlife have never been meaningfully analyzed,” said Ted Morton, Executive Director of SBCK.  “These practices will extend the life of existing oil platforms in a sensitive marine environment which is still recovering from the 2015 Plains All American Pipeline rupture that devastated our coastline.  We need information to understand the potential impacts of these practices so that appropriate measures can be implemented to protect marine life, our coast, our communities, and our economy.”

The Congress members’ brief asserts that the federal agencies’ existing analysis is “in no way sufficient to analyze the potential risks [well stimulation treatments] pose, or to meet the fundamental requirements of [the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”)] for the agencies to take a ‘hard look’ at the environmental consequences of their actions.”  They stress the uniqueness and sensitivity of the Santa Barbara Channel region; its history of catastrophic oil spills; the substantial controversy that exists over the effects of these practices; and the adverse impacts of these practices on federally-protected species, which includes the threatened Southern sea otter and Western snowy plover. For all of these reasons, the brief states that further environmental review is necessary.  The members are concerned “over the precedent that could be set by failing to apply NEPA where it is so clearly triggered, and the risk this decision poses to the Santa Barbara Channel and their constituents who reside, work, and recreate in the region.”

In November 2018, a federal District Court judge ruled in favor of EDC and SBCK in part, prohibiting the federal government from approving fracking and acidizing offshore California until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Coastal Commission have the opportunity to review such practices.  However, the court declined to require additional environmental review of these practices under NEPA—the law the U.S. House of Representatives and environmental groups say clearly requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement in this case. The organizations’ appeal seeks to uphold the current injunction on offshore fracking and acidizing and require full environmental analysis.  

More information on fracking and acidizing can be found in EDC’s Dirty Water: Fracking Offshore California report.  

The full list of members of the U.S. House of Representatives that filed the brief includes:

Rep. Salud Carbajal
Representative of California (CA-24)

Rep. Julia Brownley
Representative of California (CA-26); Member, House Committee on Natural
Resources

Rep. Jared Huffman
Representative of California (CA-2); Member, House Committee on Natural
Resources

Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-6)
Representative of California (CA-6); Member House Committee on Energy
& Commerce

Rep. Barbara Lee
Representative of California (CA-13); Member, House Appropriations
Committee

Rep. Grace Napolitano
Representative of California (CA-32); Member, House Committee on Natural
Resources

Rep. Nanette Barragán
Representative of California (CA-44); Member, House Committee on Energy
& Commerce

Rep. Matt Cartwright
Representative of Pennsylvania (PA-8); Member, House Appropriations
Committee

Rep. Steve Cohen
Representative of Tennessee (TN-9); Member, House Committee on Natural
Resources


The Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has empowered community-based organizations to advance environmental protection. EDC’s focus areas include protection of the Santa Barbara Channel, ensuring clean water, preserving open space and wildlife, and addressing climate and energy. Learn more about EDC at www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds through science-based advocacy, education, field work and enforcement. Learn more about SBCK at www.sbck.org.

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PitMix Sep 29, 2021 10:14 AM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

Yes there is an article that says overall temperature related deaths are decreasing. That is because their are more cold related deaths than heat related, and there is less cold now. But celebrating fewer temperature related deaths seems very short-sighted, as it is a clear sign that temperatures overall are rising, and that will not end well. Are the people celebrating fewer deaths malicious or just ignorant? It is very hard to tell on social media.

sacjon Sep 29, 2021 12:52 PM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

VOICE - Oh stop being so defensive, it's not meant to be a "gotcha" whatever that is. But I am pointing out that you said literally that global warming has the positive result of reducing death by freezing, which is what you also said in a later thread was an example of sensationalism or something. Either way, celebrating a decrease in freezing deaths at the expense of the rest of humanity and our ecosystem being endangered is, as PitMix says, very short-sighted.

Bird Sep 29, 2021 11:43 AM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

I agree thinking climate warming is positive is short-sighted and also dependent on where one is looking. If you're in the northern hemisphere, the far north, as Canada and Russia, warming is likely to be positive. Russia, with coasts on three oceans directly or through its seas, is the largest country, about 1/10th of the land-Earth, and much of it in the far north with now melting permafrost. That melting contributes GHGases, as do the forest fires burning its interior. The US is not likely to have much net positive benefit, especially considering the increased pressures of immigration of "climate refugees" on its southern border. We should do everything we can to curb fracking and ocean acidizing until _all_ the environmental effects are known.

Voice of Reason Sep 29, 2021 10:35 AM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

Pit, that was brought up in relation to someone's specific question about any positive effects of a warming planet. A good question because all you hear is doomsday scenarios where we're all going to die but there are must certainly be areas and aspects of our society that do benefit from a changing climate, nothing is all good or all bad. In Sac's eternal quest to prove me wrong he extrapolated that comment into something it wasn't and keeps bringing it back up because he thinks it's a good "gotcha".

Babycakes Sep 29, 2021 11:27 AM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

SacJon: I specifically did not mention car crashes as there are plenty of other transportation-related deaths (such as the Amtrak derailment a couple days ago in Montana with a number of fatalities). I would be more interested in knowing more about this stuff, but want the "real and actual" info...not the phony info that's bandied about these days. I suppose that can be a subject for another day (LOL!).

Chip of SB Sep 29, 2021 10:45 AM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

General, shutting down domestic oil production seems like a benefit to the environment, but the problem is you will continue to consume oil products and the oil will produced somewhere and imported. Below is a list of the top oil producing countries in the world. Do you believe that buying your oil from these other countries will reduce the environmental impact of your oil consumption? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_oil_production

Babycakes Sep 28, 2021 04:48 PM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

Window dressing is all this is by the same glad-handing pols who meet and greet big oil/pharma/teachers at the back door in the dark with big open pockets to accept their $$$. Say this, but do that, while playing their constituents as fools. You reap what you vote for.

Chip of SB Sep 28, 2021 01:41 PM
Nine Members of Congress Support Lawsuit to Protect Against Offshore Fracking

It’s more nimbyism than it is stewardship. People want to consume oil products, and their oil will be produced somewhere. The irony is other countries have much lower environmental standards than we do and the net result of offshoring the production of our oil will be an increased environmental impact.

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