A federal appellate panel has sided with Santa Barbara-based watchdog groups contending that additional environmental analysis must occur before any specialized oil drilling can occur offshore. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 76-page summary and opinion regarding what some call fracking and acidizing, and others refer to as s “well-stimulation treatments” from California’s offshore oil platforms.

In the opinion by Judge Ronald Gould, the panel said the agencies violated the National Environmental Protection Act or NEPA because the environmental assessment “was inadequate” and they should have prepared a more in-depth environmental impact statement. 

“The lack of data regarding the toxicity of well stimulation fluids, and the uncertainty this poses for evaluating the potential environmental effects of the proposed action, counsels us that an EIS should have been prepared,” the ruling said. 

The opinion noted a lack toxicity data for “31 of the 48 distinct chemicals” used in offshore well-stimulation treatments.

“An agency must prepare an EIS where uncertainty regarding the environmental effects of a proposed action may be resolved through further data collection,” the Court of Appeals ruling said. 

The ruling prohibits the agencies from approving permits for well-stimulation treatments until after the completion of a full EIS to “fully and fairly evaluate all reasonable alternatives.”

The Environmental Defense Center and Santa Barbara  Channelkeeper led the legal battle and hailed the ruling they say will protect the state by prohibiting the government from issuing permits for fracking and acidizing methods while drilling oil off the coast

“The court agreed with the Environmental Defense Center and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper that offshore fracking threatens the ecologically rich Santa Barbara Channel,” said Maggie Hall, senior attorney at EDC. “This ruling ensures protection of our waters for wildlife, recreation, and our tourist economy.” 

The legal battle involved EDC, Channelkeeper, the state of California, the California Coastal Commission Center for Biological Diversity, and more among the lengthy list of plaintiffs. 

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Management, the American Petroleum Institute, DCOR, LLC and ExxonMobil Corp. were listed among multiple defendants and interveners.

The full opinion and a summary can be viewed by clicking here.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.