California Files Lawsuit Challenging Federal Government’s Environmental Assessment Which Could Allow Fracking off the Coast

Trinidad coastline. [Photo by Kym Kemp]

Press release from the California Department of Justice:

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and the California Coastal Commission… filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior’s final environmental assessment, which clears the way for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), acidizing, and other advanced well treatments on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California. In addition to extending our reliance on fossil fuels, research links these types of well stimulation treatments with increased water and air pollution, as well as the potential to harm marine life.

“We must take every possible step to protect our precious coastline and ocean,” said Attorney General Harris. “The U.S. Department of Interior’s inadequate environmental assessment would open the door to practices like fracking that may pose a threat to the health and well-being of California communities. We must balance our energy needs with our longstanding commitment to protecting our natural resources and public health.”

In 2013, it came to light that advanced well treatments were being used off California’s coastline, prompting two environmental organizations to file lawsuits challenging the use of fracking and acidizing off-shore without adequate environmental review.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s environmental assessment, issued in May 2016, found that fracking poses “no significant impact.” This assessment runs contrary to substantial evidence in the record identifying significant environmental effects from fracking, as well as numerous other unique risks posed by offshore fracking. The Department of Interior’s failure to adequately consider these, and other, concerns associated with fracking off California’s coastline prompted the Attorney General to file this lawsuit alleging violations of federal environmental protection laws.

Among those who formally expressed grave concerns about the coastal fracking proposal are the California Coastal Commission and three members of Congress from California, Lois Capps (CA-24), Sam Farr (CA-20) and Jared Huffman (CA-2). In addition, 11 state legislators urged the continuation of the moratorium on offshore advanced well treatments “until a more comprehensive evaluation focused on impacts to marine life, ecosystems, and coastal communities is completed.”

The Attorney General’s complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that in issuing this environmental assessment and finding no significant impact the Department of the Interior violated the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

The California Attorney General has long been involved in efforts to protect the state’s resources from negative environmental and public health impacts of oil and gas production.

Last month, Attorney General Harris announced a $14 million settlement with BP West Coast Products LLC, BP Products North America, Inc., and Atlantic Richfield Company over allegations that the companies violated state laws regarding operating and maintaining motor vehicle fuel underground storage tanks. The Attorney General’s office and several district attorneys across the state allege that BP failed to properly inspect and maintain underground tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale at approximately 780 gas stations in California over a period of 10 years and violated other hazardous material and hazardous waste laws.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Harris, 8 other states, and the city of Chicago filed a motion to intervene in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Source Performance Standards to limit greenhouse gas emissions, specifically methane, from oil and natural gas operations. The new EPA standards mark the first time the EPA has directly limited greenhouse gases from the oil and natural gas sector and tightens existing limits on emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and natural gas operations.

In November 2015, Attorney General Harris and 17 other state Attorneys General filed a motion to intervene in support of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the EPA’s first-ever national standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Attorney General Harris has vigorously defended AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which has received global recognition as a leading example of legislation that promotes reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Attorney General’s office has also defended challenges to California’s cap and trade auctions and its precedent-setting Low Carbon Fuels Standard.[See copy of the complaint here.]



  • Floyd R. Turbo AMERICAN


  • Quit spending money on attorneys and start fixing the roads, tired of this crap

  • So what you are saying is , every tax payer is paying to file a suit against themselves, who is going to pay for the attorneys and court time? I think I pay taxes to the federal government and state , so what gives? Stop the stupidness will be the next campaign slogon

  • Could fracking off the coast also increase the potential for more earthquakes?

  • This is such a bad idea in so many,many ways.stay away from our coast.we have enough problems.Use that money for our roads,bridges.maybe we the people should sue the government,from spending our money so foolishly!!stop the insanity!!!

  • hope trump dosent trump all this

    • Yeah this is what’s gonna happen when we have a president that doesn’t believe in climate change, or does, just doesn’t care and would rather have a stack of money instead of a planet to leave our children.

      • I will say it is a nice little bubble of clean air we have in california, try visiting some other countries, they still dump used oil in their roads , burn old tires, zero pollution laws , this little spec of living green doesn’t make the slightest dent in the world pollution, I don’t see Trumps opinion really making a difference either way, but I guess you have to get out of the US to see that.

        • What we do, the world does. If we do not lead the way fighting the destruction of the planet, who will? Sadly, the next 4 years are going to be a horrible tragedy. Or, like Don, you can say everyone else is worse so why bother, right? We will be cursed by future generations for our greed.

          • Here is my theory on what we do the world does, I live on a gravel road along with 8 other neighbors, I gravel and grade the road , I drive 10 mph so not to tear up the road for the last 30 yrs, my neighbors all drive 30 mph for the last 30 plus yrs and destroy the road and dust everything out, how come they don’t follow my led? I have explained to them if they drive slow I don’t have to keep hauling gravel with my big diesel burning truck and running my gross poluter diesel grader , sorry May the world is going to follow like VOLKSWAGEN did on their california diesel motors,

      • Liberal=brainwashed
        Frack baby frack. I love it. Do it now, gas costs too much.

  • If it is over 3 nautical miles off coastline california has no jurisdiction and it is a USA deal , if california has a problem with that then they should have extended the boundaries like Texas and Florida did long time ago, ridiculous, waste of time , stupid politics wasting more money

  • We, the people of California must stand our ground when an overreaching federal government causes problems in our front yard! California has a long (and successful) history of fighting against off shore oil development. We shall keep that up! Our shores have been polluted way too many times in the past.
    Our state government is charged with looking out for the people of California’s interests, the same way the federal government does nationally. And sometimes those points of view don’t agree.
    You may not like the system we have of litigating for solutions, but it’s the system we have. (I addition, of course, to various methods of protest).
    Would you rather we spend our tax money on beach clean up, and suffer the economic losses of having our beaches fouled? Or for our grandchildren spend their money on building walls to protect against the ocean washing out roads, homes and infrastructure (due to climate change)?
    You really want our road and other public use facilities improved??!!? Tell our leaders to STOP FUNDING THE MILITARIES MANY EXCESSES!!!! (55%+ of ALL of our Fed tax dollars go to that!!!). (How do you think China is advancing so quickly? It’s because they put their wealth into their infrastructure and investments that will bring their country more wealth and power. While we give our [yours and my!] tax dollars to military contractors).
    We got to look at the BIG PICTURE!
    Change is hard, people. Yet the END IS NEAR for oil driven societies. We gotta bite the bullet and get with it.

    • The problem is california reps. dropped the ball and should have already secured the waters , coastal commission is at fault too, bunch of educated dummys

    • Agreed, Ben Round. A realistic viewpoint.

    • The largest percentage goes to entitlements.
      War is around 10-12%.
      Cool story bro.

      • ‘entitlements’ like Social Security then?

        another uncool story bro.

        • Yeah, like 30 year olds getting full disability for headaches , backaches, dry skin on their feet , all kinds of bs reasons, those are the entitlements that are screwing the system because they draw that money for 50 + years and they think it’s owed to them cause they worked,and payed taxes for 15 years , total losers, nobody is owed anything

    • Thank you, Ben Round!
      Don, please brush up on plate tectonics and study the Triple Junction by our coast. Maybe it will help you understand the sensitivity of our coastline.

      • I’m not the one overseeing our coastline , that would be the coastal commission and our great reps. and as I stated previously they should have addressed this issue long before we needed to sue ourselves , they dropped the ball , they need to be enlightened, if you don’t agree then this country is domed, I thought I was just stating the obvious, I guessed wrong as,usual

    • Ben round, No China’s economy is booming because they have exactly zero regulations on their Industries, and can do anything they want no matter how much it pollutes the environment because they are exempt from all these stupid carbon tax bull crap rules.
      If this government wasn’t so damn corrupt, we might be able to invest money into alternative energies and have it done right. Obama gave that a little try but surprise, surprise, most of those companies ended up being nothing but special interest that suck the money up and produced absolutely nothing. As it stands right now everybody who drives a car is burning gas, even if it’s an electric car you have to charge it on the grid which is powered by coal or gas. Right now we’re still buying a ton of oil from Saudi Arabia one of the worst countries in the world. And supposedly the home to 14 of the 16 hijackers that crashed into the Twin Towers, until we get our shit together don’t you think it’s best to use our oil and not Finance one of the most evil dictators in the world. Who by the way drill and refine their own oil with much less regulations than any United States company would face.

  • BTW, gorgeous picture, Kym.

  • No to fraking on our coast!!!!

  • problem with green energy (solar and windmills) it requires mining of oil and minerals
    California democrat and environmentals are anti-mining of oil and minerals
    you have seen the outcome of our forest (dying) from environmentals filing lawsuit to properly manage
    waters are polluted for the same reason( lead and mercury)
    lets be independent from them country’s that would do us harm from further purchase of oil and minerals

  • Good gawd. Fracking on a highly seismic coastline. This is horrific and freightening on so many levels. Look what fracking has done to Oklahoma. Constant earthquakes.

  • The same day California overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton to be our first female president we also promoted Kamala Harris to be the first Indian American senator.

    I’m sure she will continue to serve California well in Washington DC.

    Kamala for President 2020!

    • We got a woman now, what’s the big deal, who cares if the politician is,a man or woman or monkey, nothing changes.

      • Kamala Harris has a proven record of working in California’s best interest. I merely pointed out that she is already breaking barriers.

        She also was the first woman, the first African-American, the first Asian-American and the first Indian American attorney general in California.

        Everything being equal race and sex make no difference. But when in-equality reaches today’s level, Kamala Harris is a bright and shining example for us all.

        • All are equal in my world, if you are a citizen of this nation, you are an American, that’s it. When you choose to be an U.S. citizen , you are an American, no need to bring up whatever your ancestors called themselves in the past because you CHOOSE to be an American

          • Don, what world do you live in?

            Being born in a geographic area means you choose to be an American? I wasn’t given an opinion on where I was born.

            And America is deeply sexist and racist. I would love to live in your world where all people are equal.

            • It’s all in how you view it, so what does that make you, I need say no more , you just defined yourself , I hope someday you will be able to treat everyone as your equal.

            • If we’re so sexist and racist mayben you should move to the Middle East I hear they’re very tolerant there.

  • Say “NO” to the useful pawns (Republicans) for the rich. For them, the Earth is a place to rape and pillage, not protect.

  • No fracking , It pollutes the ground water or any water for that matter.

  • Thank you, Kamala Harris and the other people and agencies that are standing up for our environment! You are environmental warriors!

  • Trump is going to be inaugurated, his cabinet with Carl’s Junior and Exxon. I see more sexist commercials and drilling anywhere they can…after 2 failed tries to stop Trump, hang on its going to be a very bumpy ride


  • I guess inciting violence and making threats is acceptable on this site when it’s in the name of environmentalism. Don’t say “hit that” when referring to getting laid though; that’s unacceptable unless you’re a chick. Oops I said chick.

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