Feds to review environmental impact of offshore fracking

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The federal government is agreeing to study the environmental impact of offshore oil fracking before approving more operations off the coast of California. 

In a legal filing released late Friday, the Interior Department agreed to study “the potential environmental impacts of certain well-stimulation practices on the Pacific [Outer Continental Shelf], including hydraulic fracturing and acid well stimulation” before approving the practice again in the region. 

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The study is due by the end of May, according to the filing, and will determine if more intensive environmental reviews are necessary before approving future operations. Wells that already have federal approval aren’t affected by the settlement. 

Offshore fracking and other techniques have been used to kickstart oil well production in the Pacific Ocean, a tactic discovered by the Environmental Defense Center in 2013.

The group later sued the federal government over 53 so-called well stimulation approval permits. The settlement announced last week affects six total platforms, located off Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in southern California. 

“This settlement is an important first step in addressing the use of dangerous well stimulation techniques including fracking and acidizing from oil platforms located off California’s coastline,” said Brian Segee, a senior attorney a EDC.

“These practices are currently being conducted under decades old plans with out-of-date or nonexistent environmental analysis, and this settlement will finally force the federal government to consider their impacts in detail with a transparent process open to public review and input.”