Monday, February 8, 2016

U.S. Department of Interior Settles with Environmental Defense Center Over an Offshore Hydraulic Fracturing Dispute

Recently, the U.S. Department of the Interior declared that it would perform an environmental impact assessment of hydraulic fracturing in the Pacific Ocean under the terms of a settlement it has reached with the Environmental Defense Center. The U.S. Department of the Interior also agreed to suspend new permit applications off the coast of California until the environmental effects of offshore hydraulic fracturing are better known. Existing offshore drilling permits, however, will remain intact.

This settlement decision resolves a claim for declaratory and injunctive relief filed by the Environmental Defense Center in March 2014 against the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The Environmental Defense Center alleged that BSEE’s approval of 51 permits for well stimulation offshore California was unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).

In February 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity brought an action against BSEE and BOEM arguing that “the Bureaus have a pattern and practice of rubber-stamping permits to frack with no analysis of the environmental impacts, no determination of whether such activities are consistent with the plans governing oil development and production in the Pacific Region or California’s Coastal Management Program, and no public involvement.”

The environmental impact assessment is scheduled for completion by May 28, 2016.

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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