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California Fracking: Feds approve more offshore fracking on the sly

The federal government likes to approve offshore fracking without informing the state of California. California Coastal Commission (CCC) investigations revealed approval for four more fracking operations that the state was not told about. This news comes after November’s revelations that the U.S. allowed hundreds of fracking operations in federal waters, yet buried that information. According to a Feb 13 ABC News report, the CCC is being asked why the members did not know anything.

Long Beach Califorina
Lihagen at Wikimedia Commons

The trick is to allow new oil leases on existing offshore oil platforms in federal waters that begin about three miles offshore. New platforms were banned in the 1980s, but the fracking industry is pushing the idea that modern fracking technology makes offshore oil extraction safer than ever before.

Now the CCC and the public are aware of the offshore fracking and there are calls for the agency to do something. The state claims to have been kept in the dark until 2013, yet, according to a Feb. 14 Allgov report, the Associated Press only had to use public records to find multiple operations going on at Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach. That drilling went on over 24 years and at six sites.

Once the CCC started to investigate the public records, it found that the four additional approvals went in favor of DCOR LLC. These approvals were also granted on the sly and without the state being informed.

Worse news is that offshore fracking companies have had complete freedom to dump fracking fluids into the ocean without reporting anything to the federal government. After the state demanded it, the feds established a reporting requirement.

The closest offshore fracking goes on at Long Beach where the state can mandate underground reinjection of fluids. Reinjection is not required in Federal waters.

The California Coastal Commission will not explain why significant fracking and fluid dumping slipped past them in the first place. While the commission says it has no authority to ban fracking in federal waters, it does have regulatory authority within three miles of the coast. Now that the matter is publicly exposed, the commission is under scrutiny and pressure.

One person who questions the Coastal Commission’s performance is Brian Segee. He is an attorney at the Environmental Defense Center. He said,

"For the industry to come up here and say this has been happening for decades, or 'we've known all along' ... Why did the commission not know?"

One reason might be the beyond-cozy relationship that Gov. Jerry Brown, state commissions and task forces and state legislators have with oil and gas industry lobbyists. According to a November 7, 2013 Examiner article, Brown appointed Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) president Catherine Reheis-Boyd to chair the state's Marine Life Protection Act task force. The WSPA is the biggest oil and gas lobbyist in the state.

The same article revealed that WSPA lobbyists treated twelve state lawmakers to a $13,000 dinner at one of the capital city’s most expensive eateries. A week later, the same lawmakers voted to gut California’s landmark fracking regulation.

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