The Heat is On! - Offshore Fracking Activities Drawing Significant Opposition

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Opposition is heating up against four offshore frac jobs permitted to occur off the Santa Barbara coastline. This year, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) has permitted DCOR, LLC to utilize fracking technology to stimulate offshore wells. DCOR’s frac jobs, known as “mini-fracs,” were added to and approved under an already existing permit categorically excluded from National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) review.

The BSEE is the federal agency responsible for issuing offshore oil and gas permits. This agency - along with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) - was created in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and tasked with carefully and publically reviewing all permits for offshore drilling operations.

On October 3, the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”) notified BSEE and BOEM that it intended to take legal action against the agencies to suspend fracking operations off the Santa Barbara coastline, right on the heels of the passage of SB4 (see October 11, 2013 and September 23, 2013 posts for more on SB4). In addition to its demand that the agencies halt operations, CBD is calling for environmental review pursuant to NEPA. However, as is the case for the DCOR frac jobs discussed above, much of oil and gas development is categorically excluded from NEPA review pursuant to Section 390 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.