Federal Court Rejects Oil Company’s Bid for Exemption From Pacific Fracking Moratorium

LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2019 — A federal judge last night denied DCOR, LLC’s request for relief from a court-ordered moratorium on fracking in federal waters off the California coast.

The decision leaves in place a ruling issued late last year prohibiting the Trump administration from issuing permits for offshore fracking and acidizing in the Pacific Ocean until it conducts further environmental review.

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“We’re glad the court rejected DCOR’s baseless request to frack off California’s coast without the careful review mandated by law,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This ruling ensures that oil companies can’t threaten sea otters and other imperiled wildlife with dangerous offshore fracking while further environmental analysis is conducted.”

In December 2018 U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez concluded that the federal government had violated the Endangered Species Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking in offshore oil and gas wells in all leased federal waters off California.

The ruling was the result of three lawsuits filed by the state of California, Center for Biological Diversity, Wishtoyo Foundation and Environmental Defense Center challenging the federal government’s approval of offshore fracking in the Pacific Ocean.

In its 2018 order, the court prohibited the Trump administration from approving plans or permits allowing fracking and acidizing in federal waters off California until federal officials complete consultation with the expert wildlife agency on the risks of these activities to sea otters and other endangered wildlife.

The court also prohibited the administration from approving offshore fracking and acidizing in these waters until the California Coastal Commission determines whether offshore fracking is consistent with California’s coastal management program.

DCOR filed a motion for relief from that judgment in January 2019 so that it could frack wells from Platform Gilda in the Santa Barbara Channel. DCOR’s motion claimed it would lose money as a result of the court-ordered moratorium.

In denying DCOR’s motion, Judge Gutierrez noted that Endangered Species Act “affords endangered species the highest of priorities” and that the oil company’s speculative financial harms cannot trump the important environmental harms at stake.

At least 10 chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including marine mammals and fish, Center scientists have found. The California Council on Science and Technology has identified some common fracking chemicals to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals.

www.biologicaldiversity.org