Although more than 200 oil wells are already being used for fracking off the coast of Southern California, the federal government has agreed to stop approving the practice pending an environmental study.
The Environmental Defense Center sued regarding 53 permits for well use at six offshore platforms, arguing the chemicals used in the practice could seep into the ocean, impacting both the water quality and life beneath the surface, The Associated Press reported.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a separate lawsuit claiming the U.S. Department of the Interior approved requests for fracking failed to engage the public or look into the environmental impacts, Reuters reported.
The lawsuits, which were settled on Jan. 29, affect fracking operations off the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, although there are also wells in other counties, near Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The lawsuits could change federal oversight on tracking for the rest of the U.S., including wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Oil companies were unhappy with the outcome. The American Petroleum Institute, a defendant in the lawsuit which didn’t agree to the settlement, called the need for an environmental review unnecessary and said the halt for permits was unjustified.
A spokeswoman with the Department of Interior said it was committed to safe ocean operations.
Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity said, “Offshore fracking is a dirty and dangerous practice that has absolutely no place in our ocean.”
She added: “The federal government certainly has no right to give the oil industry free rein to frack offshore at will.”