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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 2:48 pm | Overcast 61º


Capps Briefs Press on Fracking Moratorium Bill

Legislation would impose a 'time out' until environmental review is completed

Rep. Lois Capps, flanked by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, briefs reporters Friday on her recently introduced legislation to place a moratorium on offshore oil ‘fracking.’
Rep. Lois Capps, flanked by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, briefs reporters Friday on her recently introduced legislation to place a moratorium on offshore oil ‘fracking.’ (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Almost as if on cue, one sharp-eyed reporter spotted a surfacing whale in the Santa Barbara Channel on Friday, just beyond where Rep. Lois Capps was giving a press conference at Shoreline Park about her recent legislation to impose a moratorium on offshore oil fracking.

Capps had gathered with Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Environmental Defense Center Attorney Brian Segee to talk about the Offshore Fracking Transparency and Review Act, which she introduced in Congress on Wednesday.

The oil platforms that sit in federal waters on the Outer Continental Shelf could be seen easily on Friday, and the whale's appearance served to punctuate the point made by Capps and the others that the channel is rich in marine life, which often sits in tension with the goals of the energy industry.

Capps' bill, which faces a doubtful future in the Republican-conrolled House of Representatives, would impose a temporary halt on hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" and acidizing techniques in the OCS region until an environmental impact statement could be completed.

The bill also would require a comprehensive list of tracking and acidizing activities to be documented and would include what chemicals and how much are used, the amount of wastewater generated, and how it was disposed of.

"It's amazing what happens out there without, apparently, any oversight at all," Capps told reporters.

Segee said that oil companies had been fracking and acidizing in the Santa Barbara Channel for the past two decades.

That was unknown until 2013, when Freedom of Information Act requests revealed that the activity had been taking place. The EDC issued a report on the activity and called on the government to put in a moratorium on the activity.

"Our requests actually mirror closely the legislation," he said.

The EDC filed a federal lawsuit last year, maintaining that issuance of more than 50 offshore permits violates environmental law.

Jackson said that the states's oversight agency, the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, or DOGGR, has been too beholden to oil companies in the past.

To combat that, she said she'll be introducing legislation that will change the mission, requiring the oversight agency to put the public's interest first.

"We are not a state that says 'drill, baby, drill,'" Jackson said. "We are a state that says, 'If we're going to drill, it better be done responsibly.'"

Capps said her bill did not call for a ban, but rather a "time-out" until more in known about the impacts of fracking and acidizing in ocean waters.

The bill would also required that state and local regulatory agencies be notified whenever a fracking permit is issued.

When the revelations of the fracking came out in 2013, the California Coastal Commission had no idea it was taking place, Capps said.

"This must never happen again," she said. "The public has a right to know what is being done on these drilling platforms."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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