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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, California Coastal Commission File Lawsuit Challenging Fracking Off California Coastline

Monday, December 19, 2016
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and the California Coastal Commission today 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.

A copy of the complaint is attached to the online version of this news release at oag.ca.gov/news.

The Coastal Commission’s press contact is Noaki Schwartz: Noaki.Schwartz@Coastal.ca.gov, 562-833-5487.

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