The Supreme Court Delivers a Blow to Oil Companies by Refusing to Hear Challenge to Fracking Ban
The Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge on Monday to a court order banning fracking off California’s coast, delivering a blow to oil companies, which argued that the moratorium would undermine oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf.
The decision lets stand a June 2022 ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the state of California and several environmental groups in ruling that the federal government had violated various environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act, when it allowed fracking and acidizing extraction practices in federal waters off California’s coast.
Environmentalists Celebrate Victory
Environmentalists had argued that offshore fracking is dangerous to whales, sea otters, and other marine wildlife in the area. They first filed a lawsuit to stop the action in 2014, noting at the time that more than 50 permits had been issued by the federal government without public or environmental review, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
Kristen Monsell, the oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, hailed the Supreme Court’s decision as an “amazing victory for California’s coast and marine life.”
“Fracking is incredibly dangerous and has no place in our oceans,” she said in a statement. “This decision will prevent more toxic chemicals from poisoning fish, sea otters, and other marine life. And it brings us a step closer to ending offshore drilling once and for all.”
Oil Companies Argue Injunction is “Premature”
In January, the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil, and a California refinery had asked the Supreme Court to review the appellate court decision, arguing in a court filing that the injunction was “premature” and “threatens to stall vital energy projects” beyond the California area, especially since there are no pending applications to begin fracking in the region.
“If allowed to stand, the decision below will undermine the development of oil, natural gas and renewable energy on the entire Outer Continental Shelf,” they said.
No Pending Applications to Frack in the Region
There are currently 14 oil and gas fields in federal waters off California but no pending applications to frack, according to court documents.
Appellate Court Ruling Prohibits Interior Department from Issuing More Permits
The June appellate court ruling also prohibited the Interior Department from issuing more permits in the region until it completed both an Endangered Species Act consultation and an environmental impact statement that considers both “the environmental impacts of extensive offshore fracking” and “fully and fairly evaluate[s] all reasonable alternatives.”
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