Workers clean up oil that leaked from an offshore rig and flowed into the Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach, California on October 3, 2021.

Workers clean up oil that leaked from an offshore rig and flowed into the Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach, California on October 3, 2021.

(Photo: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Big Oil Asks US Supreme Court to Reinstate Offshore Fracking in California

"The decision to halt fracking was exceedingly well-reasoned, and I hope the court rejects the oil industry's reckless attempt to overturn the 9th Circuit's ruling," said one campaigner.

The American Petroleum Institute and a pair of oil companies filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday in a bid to overturn a lower federal court ruling that blocked fracking in public waters off California's coast.

"The decision to halt fracking was exceedingly well-reasoned, and I hope the court rejects the oil industry's reckless attempt to overturn the 9th Circuit's ruling," Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in a statement. "Fracking is dangerous to whales, sea otters, and other marine wildlife, and this dirty, harmful technique has no place in our ocean."

CBD and the Wishtoyo Foundation sued the Trump administration to stop offshore fracking in 2016. Then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a similar case.

In 2018, U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ordered a prohibition on permits for offshore fracking in federal waters off California, ruling that the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) had failed to adhere to multiple federal laws.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gutierrez's decision last June, arguing that the DOI violated the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking in offshore oil and gas wells in all leased public waters off California.

In late August, the Biden administration, of which Harris is the vice president, asked the 9th Circuit for an en banc review to overturn the panel's ruling.

The Biden administration's request, which drew the ire of environmentalists because it would have enabled offshore fracking to resume, was denied in September.

"Fracking is dangerous to whales, sea otters, and other marine wildlife, and this dirty, harmful technique has no place in our ocean."

In its June ruling, the 9th Circuit stated that the DOI "should have prepared a full [environmental impact statement] in light of the unknown risks posed by the well stimulation treatments and the significant data gaps that the agencies acknowledged."

Instead, the agency "disregarded necessary caution when dealing with the unknown effects of well stimulation treatments and the data gaps associated with a program of regular fracking offshore California in order to increase production and extend well life," the 9th Circuit wrote.

The panel's decision prevents the DOI from issuing fracking permits until it completes Endangered Species Act consultations and published an environmental impact statement that "fully and fairly evaluate[s] all reasonable alternatives."

In addition to the fact that offshore fracking increases planet-wrecking greenhouse gas emissions, tens of millions of gallons of toxic fracking wastewater have been dumped into the ocean since 2010.

According to CBD scientists, "At least 10 chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters, fish, leatherback turtles, and whales."

Join the Movement: Become Part of the Solution Today

We're optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter counts.

Your contribution supports this new media model—free, independent, and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Stand with us in the fight for social justice, human rights, and equality. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.