Fracking California's Coast: Billions of Gallons of Fracking Pollution Legalized By Feds

Read time: 3 mins

If an energy company accidentally spilled 9 billion gallons of toxic waste into the ocean, the media, the public, and the government would be all over the situation.  But when it isn’t an accident, there is no reason for anyone to pay attention.

Such is the case with the fracking industry operating in California’s Santa Barbara Channel.  Federal regulators have given fracking companies the green light to dump as much as 9 billion gallons of waste into the waterway every single year.  This is in the same body of water that was devastated by millions of gallons of crude oil during a spill in 1969 that occurred as a result of a blowout on an oil rig operating in the area.  This environmental catastrophe led to the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Dos Cuadras Offshore Resources (DCOR) has been granted permits for four “mini” fracking exploration projects in the Santa Barbara Channel, all of which have been granted with certain environmental exclusions, as explains:

According to internal BSEE documents, the four DCOR frack jobs, known as “frac-packs” or “mini-fracks,” were approved under minor modifications to existing drilling permits that already were “categorically excluded” from the kind of NEPA reviews that environmentalists are now demanding. BSEE issues these exclusions when reviews indicate that a proposed activity is not expected to have significant impacts on the environment…

DCOR plans to pump wastewater from its fracking operations to an onshore treatment facility then send the fluids back to the drilling platform to be reinjected into underground formations or dumped overboard, according to BSEE documents…this plan was consistent with a general discharge permit issued by the EPA for operators in the region.

Officials with DCOR and the government say that the wastewater will be sent onshore for treatment before being sent back to the rig and injected into the well.  However, this will do very little to remove any of the dangerous chemicals found in fracking wastewater, which contains radioactive and carcinogenic components.

How is DCOR able to get away with dumping 9 billion gallons of fracking waste into the Santa Barbara Channel?  The answer goes back to the “Halliburton Loophole” that exempts fracking waste from EPA review and federal clean water standards.  Additionally, the exemptions granted to DCOR allow the company to avoid any form of NEPA review, which is ironic considering the fact that they are dumping waste into the same body of water that gave us NEPA reviews. 

The mini fracking projects approved for DCOR are just the tip of the iceberg.  Should these projects prove fruitful, the Santa Barbara Channel can expect more exploitation, and more toxic wastewater, by other gas companies looking for a quick profit and zero accountability for their pollution.

Image credit: Brown pelican in Santa Barbara via Shutterstock

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