Fracking companies operating off the coast of California cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when two federal agencies determined that the practice has no significant impact on the human environment. The decision lifts a moratorium that had been placed on hydraulic fracturing this year after an environmental group filed a lawsuit questioning the drilling practice.
“The comprehensive analysis shows that these practices, conducted according to permit requirements, have minimal impact,” Abigal Ross Hopper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), one of the two federal agencies tasked with the investigation, said Friday in a statement posted online.
The BOEM analyzed 23 oil and gas platforms off California’s coast in tandem with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The effects of fracking, a process that pushes liquids and chemicals into rock formations to loosen oil and gas, were measured between 1982 and 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times.
President Barack Obama’s administration “is once again putting California’s beautiful coast in the oil industry’s crosshairs,” Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Oceans Program at the Center for Biological Diversity, the group that brought the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Our beaches and wildlife face a renewed threat from fracking chemicals and oil spills. New legal action may be the only way to get federal officials to do their jobs and protect our ocean from offshore fracking.”
The center said it may appeal the decision.
Obama’s climate positions are complicated: He is the leader of a large country with vast natural resources at a time when the world is facing a climate change crisis. His administration has received criticism from both environmental activists and energy industry proponents. While Obama has pushed for Environmental Protection Agency rules and international accords to curb greenhouse gasses, his administration has also allowed drilling expansions that climate activists say are dangerous.
As climate activists are critical of the most recent fracking decision, the oil industry naturally is encouraged.
“Offshore energy is a vital source of jobs and revenue for both California and the U.S., and the sooner operations offshore California can resume the better,” Randal Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said in a statement, referring to the lawsuit as “hyperbole.”
The association, which does not publicly disclose its members but is a major oil and gas industry group, spent $20,000 lobbying in the first quarter of 2016 when the lawsuit was brought forth, according to Senate lobbying disclosure documents. They disclosed lobbying the Department of the Interior — the parent department of both the BOEM and the BSEE — and specifically mentioned “access to offshore energy resources.”