Offshore Fracking in Long Beach Postponed Due to Low Oil Prices, Environmental Concerns Aside

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) pointed out in a press release issued Friday that 13 offshore fracking permits issued by state oil officials to the City of Long Beach will soon expire.

According to the release, the nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places, sent a letter to the director of Long Beach Gas and Oil stating that “offshore fracking in state waters requires a coastal development permit, because it is a dangerous activity that involves the disposal of liquid waste and extraction of oil.”

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“There is not sufficient time remaining before December 30, 2015—the last date Long Beach has authorization to frack offshore wells—to complete this important, legally required process. Therefore, the city cannot lawfully act on the permits from state oil officials, and cannot frack any of its offshore wells,” the letter states.

The offshore fracks, which were set to begin in August and continue through December from the city-owned artificial oil islands to tap into the Wilmington oil field, would have been the first in state waters since 2013, according to the CBD. The Center’s release stated that the Coastal Commission warned Long Beach officials that the city would need an additional permit under the Coastal Act to frack offshore, while the Center threatened to sue the city if it failed to comply with the act.

Kevin Tougas of Long Beach Gas and Oil told the Post that the aforementioned permits are effective for one year and expire in June 2016. The city will not use them due to lower oil prices; however, depending on the economics, the city may pursue another hydraulic fracturing permit moving forward.

“It’s a huge relief that these offshore fracking permits won’t be used and a major victory for California’s coastal environment,” Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney, was quoted as saying in the release. “This toxic technique has no place in our ocean. Every offshore frack puts coastal communities and sea otters and other marine wildlife at risk from dangerous chemicals or another devastating oil spill.”

According to Tougas, however, The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), found no instance of water contamination from the process in California. Tougas also said that marine life and habitats are not affected by hydraulic fracturing, that stimulating a well is done in a closed system that prevents any harm done to the environment and marine life.

“The well has casing and other downhole equipment to isolate and protect groundwater from the zone being stimulated,” said Tougas. “The well is produced in a closed system, the oil is separated for sale and the produced water is utilized in water flooding to control subsidence and enhance oil production. The well and the facilities have equipment to capture vapors from being released to the atmosphere.”

Senate Bill 4 imposed additional regulatory requirements and extensive research in 2013, when the CCST was required to study the potential risks of hydraulic fracturing. The report can be read right here. When asked to comment on the “two chemicals identified by the CCST as among the most toxic substances on earth to aquatic life,” as stated in the Center’s release, Tougas replied in an email, saying “California has some of the strictest environmental and well stimulation regulations in the country. When hydraulic fracturing is used, we adhere to all State and Federal regulations.”

According to Tougas, the final regulations governing hydraulic fracturing require operators to conduct groundwater monitoring as well as to review California’s seismic monitoring network during operations. He added that no fresh water is used to hydraulically stimulate a well.

“Hydraulic fracturing has helped extend the productive life of the Wilmington field,” said Tougas. “The revenue from the oil field goes directly to the City's General Fund to pay for public safety, libraries and other critical City services. However, the City would not conduct any activities that would harm the environment.”

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