By Robert A. Vella
Fresh on the heels of the Porter Ranch natural gas leak, the largest in U.S. history which released an estimated 100,000 tons of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere and forced thousands of residents to evacuate, two Obama Administration agencies have issued a joint environmental impact study clearing the way for more hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) operations off the California coast.
The debate over fracking in California is about to get even more heated, following a report from two federal agencies that found that fracking for oil and gas in the ocean — known as offshore fracking — is unlikely to have a “significant” impact on the environment.
On Friday, both the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) jointly released an environmental study that looked at the impact of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — on marine ecosystems. The report analyzed 23 offshore fracking operations that operated in California between 1982 and 2014, and found that the operations have a minimal impact on the quality of water and ocean health. To the fossil fuel industry, this signals a return to normalcy, as both the BOEM and BSEE will resume approval of offshore fracking permits that they had temporarily suspended while the environmental study was being conducted.
“I think it’s just absurd that the agency could look at the environmental of offshore fracking and make a finding that there is no significant environmental impact,” Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told ThinkProgress.
According to Sakashita, fracking companies are currently allowed to discharge 9 billion gallons of wastewater into the ocean each year — and that waste water can include toxic chemicals. There is no limit for the amount of chemicals that companies can discharge into the ocean, and companies are not required to disclose which chemicals they use in their operations.
Hey, what the hell… frack California! With catastrophic climate change knocking on our collective doors, who’s going to notice?