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Supreme Court’s refusal to take fracking case considered a win by environmentalists

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.-The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to an offshore fracking prohibition off California's coast.

The refusal means a recent ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stands.

That ruling found the Federal Government violated several environmental acts when it allowed fracking at offshore wells without environmental reviews.

The ruling followed several lawsuits filed by the Environmental Defense Center and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, the Center for Biological Diversity and Wishtoyo Foundation, and the state of California.

The Environmental Defense Center's Senior Attorney Maggie Hall is pleased with the Supreme Court's refusal.

She had been with the case since the beginning.

"We first found out that fracking and acidizing was happening right here in the Santa Barbara Channel after launching a formal investigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, " said Hall, "and that investigation uncovered that the government had essentially been rubber stamping permits for fracking and acidizing without ever conducting any kinds of environmental analysis."

When environmental analysis failed to follow the EDC filed a lawsuit in 2014 that resulted in a settlement.

That case led to the first ever analysis of the impacts of offshore fracking off the coast.

But Hall said the analysis was flawed so environmental groups filed another lawsuit in 2016.

"This time there were impacts to endangered wildlife, so we filed a lawsuit under several environmental laws, we were joined by the State of California, which also filed a lawsuit under the Coastal Zone Management Act."

The lawsuit resulted in the 9th Circuit decision that said that the Federal Government failed to conduct adequate environmental analysis.

Hall said that meant oil companies would have to "go back to the drawing board" if they wanted to allow these practices."

Since the oil industry took that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and the court declined to hear it fracking and acidization cannot occur off the California coast without environmental review.

Hydrolic fracturing in simple terms is a drilling technique that recovers oil and gas in the earth or rock by using a high pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals.

"It is really important, even though right now fracking and acidization can't happen off our coast, it is still a looming threat and these practices involve the discharge of highly toxic chemicals into a marine environment., " said Hall, "Many of the chemicals used in the practices are entirely unknown and from what we do know they are extremely dangerous and involve things like known carcinogens."

Hall said it is important to stay vigilant.

"Right now, more than ever in the climate crisis that we are in, is really the time to be shifting to renewables and these practices only extend the life of these fossil fuel developments and increase the risk to our local environment," said Hall.

The American Petroleum Institute could not be reached to comment but API's Vice President of Upstream Policy Holly Hopkins issued a statement that said, "Access to vast energy resources offshore is essential for meeting the demand affordable, reliable energy while achieving our climate goals.

API was an intervenor defendant in the case.

"API will continue to work with policymakers to advance opportunities that allow the safe and responsible development of the Outer Continental Shelf," said Hopkins.

Your News Channel will have more on the offshore fracking case tonight on the news.

Article Topic Follows: Environment & Energy

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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