A federal appeals panel has sided with Santa Barbara-based monitoring groups, saying additional environmental analysis must take place before any specialized oil drilling can take place offshore.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals published a 76-page summary and opinion regarding what some call fracking and souring, and others call “well stimulation treatments” of California’s offshore oil rigs.
In Justice Ronald Gould’s opinion, the panel said the agencies violated the National Environmental Protection Act or NEPA because the environmental assessment “was inadequate” and they should have prepared a more thorough environmental impact statement.
“The lack of data regarding the toxicity of well stimulation fluids, and the uncertainty this poses for assessing the potential environmental effects of the proposed action, advises us that an EIS should have been prepared,” the decision said. .
The advisory noted a lack of toxicity data for “31 of 48 separate chemicals” used in offshore well stimulation treatments.
“An agency must prepare an EIS where uncertainty about the environmental effects of a proposed action can be resolved by additional data collection,” the Court of Appeals said.
The ruling prohibits agencies from approving permits for well stimulation treatments until after a full EIA has been completed to “fully and fairly evaluate all reasonable alternatives.”
The Environmental Defense Center and Guardian of the Santa Barbara Range led the legal battle and hailed the ruling which they say will protect the state by prohibiting the government from issuing permits for fracking and acidification methods when drilling offshore oil
“The court has agreed with the Environmental Defense Center and the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper that offshore fracking threatens the ecologically rich Santa Barbara Channel,” said Maggie Hall, senior counsel at EDC. “This decision ensures that our waters are protected for wildlife, recreation and our tourism economy.”
The legal battle has involved EDC, Channelkeeper, the State of California, the California Coastal Commission Center for Biological Diversity and many others among the long list of plaintiffs.
The United States Bureau of Ocean Management, the American Petroleum Institute, DCOR, LLC and ExxonMobil Corp. were among the multiple defendants and intervenors.
The full review and a summary can be viewed by by clicking here.