A host of federal agencies are facing legal action after approving or modifying as many as 51 offshore-drilling permits allowing for the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," Courthouse News Service is reporting.
Earlier this year, protesters gathered in San Diego to speak out against the practice of offshore fracking, in which a mixture of water and an undisclosed mixture of chemicals is injected into a gas well in order to aid with fossil-fuel extraction before being dumped into the sea.
Their efforts failed to block approval of a host of permits, and last week the Environmental Defense Center sued the Department of the Interior, its agencies the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in federal court, claiming the bureaus "are shirking their duties by issuing drilling permits for wells in the Outer Continental Shelf that use acid well stimulation and hydraulic fracturing without analyzing the environmental impacts, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act."
According to the complaints, hydraulic fracturing "poses numerous environmental risks to coastal and marine natural resources," including "impacts to water quality associated with discharge of toxic chemicals found in well stimulation fluids, and impacts to air quality including greenhouse gas emissions...unstudied risks to many threatened and endangered species, including blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, and southern sea otters, and risks to other fish, birds, and aquatic organisms including invertebrate species that comprise the base of the food chain."
The waters predominantly affected by the bureaus' moves are in the Santa Barbara Channel along California's central coast, an area that the Environmental Defense Center describes as a scenic tourist locale that also provides a home to threatened or endangered species.
The group seeks to block enforcement of the existing permits and the issuance of any more, pending government compliance with Environmental Policy Act requirements.