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Judge Rejects Oil Company's Request to Frack Off SoCal Coast

A judge cited the need to protect the California sea otter in his refusal to lift a moratorium on offshore fracking at existing wells. (kconnors/Morguefile)
A judge cited the need to protect the California sea otter in his refusal to lift a moratorium on offshore fracking at existing wells. (kconnors/Morguefile)
April 25, 2019

LOS ANGELES – Environmental groups have won another round in the battle over fracking in federal waters off the coast of California.

Late Tuesday, a judge denied an oil company's request to frack in the Santa Barbara Channel.

The company, called DCOR LLC, had asked for an exception to a moratorium put in place last December.

That ruling forbids the Trump administration from approving permits for fracking or acidizing in the Pacific until a proper environmental review is done.

Steve Jones, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, called the company's request "ridiculous."

"DCOR had no good reason for wanting to do this, other than increase its profits at the cost of marine wildlife and coastal communities," he states.

The ruling only applies to fracking and acidizing at existing platforms and would not prevent the Trump administration from issuing permits to expand drilling in federal waters – and the revised five-year plan for that is expected to come out very soon.

DCOR maintained in court papers that the moratorium would hurt company finances, but the judge said the protection of marine life takes priority.

The judge ruled that the federal government violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved the permits, citing concerns for the health of sea otters.

Jones says the animals are bouncing back, but are very sensitive to the chemicals used in fracking for oil.

"If it gets any oil on its fur, it can get hypothermia, and we need to be protecting vulnerable marine life, not oil industry profits," he points out.

The decision gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service time to finish its environmental assessment.

The judge also ruled that the moratorium will stay in place unless the California Coastal Commission finds that fracking is consistent with its coastal management program.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA