LOS ANGELES (AP) — A group of state lawmakers has asked the federal government to investigate hydraulic fracturing off the California coast where new oil leases have been banned since a disastrous oil spill in 1969.
Fracking has occurred in the Santa Barbara Channel at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and regulators earlier this year approved a new project, according to a recent report by The Associated Press, which obtained well permits and internal emails through the Freedom of Information Act.
The extent of fracking in the Pacific causes "extreme concern," state lawmakers led by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, said in the letter this week.
Unlike fracking on land, which has spurred efforts to prohibit or curtail the practice, fracking in federal waters is less common and has not received the same attention.
Offshore jobs, which are typically smaller than ones done onshore, involves the pumping of hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and a mixture of chemicals beneath the seabed. Most of the efforts to date have yielded mixed success in increasing oil production.
Federal environmental regulators so far have exempted fracking fluids from the nation's clean water laws, allowing companies to flush treated discharges into the sea without a separate environmental review, the AP found.
The California Coastal Commission said it had no idea until recently that ocean fracking was even happening and planned to ask oil companies in the future whether they intend to frack. Since the work occurs in federal waters, oversight falls to agencies in the Interior Department. But state coastal regulators have a say if an offshore project affects water quality or marine mammals.
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