Capps Introduces Bill to Halt Offshore Fracking and Require Environmental Review

Apr 21, 2015 Issues: Energy & Environment

On Earth Day, Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) introduced a bill that would place a moratorium on offshore fracking in federal waters off the West Coast until a full environmental review of the controversial practice is completed.

Under the Offshore Fracking Transparency and Review Act of 2015, no hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or acid well stimulation treatment (acidizing) may take place in the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Region until the Secretary of the Interior conducts a preliminary study and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The preliminary study would compile data on the practice and impacts of fracking and acidizing in the area to ensure that the relevant agencies have a better understanding of the latest science and practices of the oil and gas industry. After completion of this study, the Secretary and other relevant agencies would conduct an EIS to assess the impacts of offshore fracking and acidizing on our marine environment and public health and present various alternatives that would avoid or minimize any adverse impacts.

The bill would also require the Secretary to compile and maintain a list of all offshore fracking and acidizing activities that have taken place, or will take place, in the Pacific OCS Region. It would also require the Secretary to notify all relevant state and local regulatory agencies after receiving any application for a permit to frack offshore and after fracking is conducted offshore.

Today we celebrate Earth Day, a day established largely in response to the devastating 1969 oil spill off the Central Coast of California,” Capps said. “This week we also commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. These are two of the most devastating environmental catastrophes in the history of our nation, and we must do everything we can to ensure our economy and environment don’t one day again face the same devastation they endured during these two terrible events.

“While we still know very little about the impacts of onshore fracking, we know even less about impacts of offshore fracking. Until we can gain a better understanding of the scope and impacts of these activities, offshore fracking should be halted. We should not be putting the environment at risk because of inadequate oversight.”

“Despite the profound risks that offshore fracking and acidizing pose to the Santa Barbara Channel, its extraordinary wildlife, and the public, the U.S. Department of the Interior continues to rubber stamp new permits without any environmental study or even public notification,” said Brian Segee, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Defense Center. “We thank Representative Capps for her leadership in introducing the Offshore Fracking Transparency and Review Act, which would finally shine a light on the use of these dangerous practices off California's coast, and require the Interior Department to put a halt to their use unless and until they can be proven safe.”

According to media reports and an analysis from the Environmental Defense Center, California’s coastal waters have been fracked at least 15 times in the last 20 years. Capps has been pushing federal regulators for information on this issue since the fracks were first revealed in August 2013 and continues to monitor onshore and offshore fracking activities closely.

In 2013, Capps sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy calling for a moratorium on offshore fracking activities in federal waters off the coast of California until a comprehensive study is conducted to determine the impacts of fracking activities on the marine environment and public health.

Capps also supports several pieces of legislation that would increase the transparency and safety of onshore fracking activities, including the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, the Bringing Reductions to Energy's Airborne Toxic Health Effects (BREATHE) Act, the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation (FRESHER) Act, and the Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations Act (CLEANER) Act. These measures would close loopholes that currently allow the oil and gas industry to avoid complying with environmental protection laws on hydraulic fracking and other activities.

Capps also reintroduced the California Ocean and Coastal Protection Act, which would permanently ban new oil and gas development in federal waters off the coast of California. Capps has introduced this legislation every Congress since 2006.