In a letter dated October 3, 2013, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) urged federal offshore regulators at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Pacific Region, “to place an immediate moratorium on new oil and gas approvals” and to suspend existing approvals “involving hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other unconventional extraction techniques to protect our marine environment and comply with your statutory stewardship duties.” The CBD states that these agencies are violating federal environmental statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), by allowing hydraulic fracturing and unconventional drilling in the Pacific Ocean without conducting a supplemental NEPA review to analyze the risks to human health and endangered marine life and a full environmental impact statement. The group points to records which indicate that at least a dozen wells in California state waters have been fracked in the past three years using dangerous substances such as “2-Butoxyethanol, methanol and other cancer causing chemicals.”

The Center for Biological Diversity was recently successful in a similar case involving hydraulic fracturing on federal land in the central California Monterey Shale Formation, finding that the federal agency failed to assess the risks of fracking before issuing the leases. On March 31, 2013, in Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club v. The Bureau of Land Management and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, No. CV-11-06174 (N.D. Cal., December 8, 2011), the Court ruled that the BLM failed to conduct the “hard look” analysis required by NEPA by dismissing any development scenario involving hydraulic fracturing when used in combination with technologies such as horizontal drilling. See prior blog entitled “BLM Violated NEPA by Granting Leases without Evaluating Fracking Risks,” dated April 10, 2013.


This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (barclay.nicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.