The state of California was sued this week by an environmental group for approving thousands of oil and gas drilling and fracking projects without the required environmental review.
In the suit Center for Biological Diversity V. California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental non-profit organization, charges California for approving gas and oil drilling permits without an environmental review. Permits are currently required by law under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The lawsuit also notes that, despite a long history of environmental laws that have influenced the nation, CalGEM has had a “consistent and ongoing pattern and practice of ignoring its legal obligation to conduct environmental review before issuing oil and gas permits throughout the state.” The center gave specific evidence over this by explaining that nearly 2,000 permits to drill new oil and gas wells without conducting a review of the environmental impacts of the projects in 2020 alone.
“It is completely unacceptable for Gov. Newsom to continue to ignore our flagship environmental law that’s meant to protect people from oil industry pollution,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Newsom can’t protect our health and climate while giving thousands of illegal permits each year to this dirty and dangerous industry. We need the courts to step in and stop this.”
In addition, the Center noted in a statement on Wednesday that Governor Gavin Newsom in particular has failed to better control fracking in the state. The Center says that, in addition to Newsom refusing calls for fracking bans, he has also allowed permits without CEQA review to continue to be issued and has not signed more drilling health and safety rules despite promising to do so by the end of 2020.
“The governor is openly flouting the law by rubber stamping new oil permits, and we believe the courts will make him stop,” added Kretzmann.
The lawsuit is only the latest court action or piece of legislation fighting against fracking, the resource extraction technique of drilling and using pressurized liquid to fracture the bedrock and open up better access to fossil fuels, unveiled this month.
Earlier in February, a new bill, SB 467, was introduced to the state legislature to outright ban fracking in California completely by 2027, citing numerous health and environmental risks that fracking causes.
Lawsuit gains support, opposition
The Center’s suit was seen favorably by many, including by other environmental groups and citizens groups that have formed against fracking nearby residential and urban areas.
“The state’s failure to conduct environmental review has been in reckless disregard of the health and safety impacts imposed on communities at the frontlines of gas and oil operations,” executive director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, Gladys Limon, explained on Thursday. “Our government’s primary duty is to protect communities, which requires diligently identifying and preventing short- and long-term impacts to people’s health and life expectancy.”
Supporters of fracking, including many in the oil and gas industries in California, were concerned but unfazed by the lawsuit on Thursday.
“The lawsuit fails to note the lengths that many of these companies are going to in California to do this as safely as possible,” Francis Kellerman, a pump manufacturer in Pennsylvania who often oversees transport to and use at fracking sites in California, told the Globe. “These are a lot of jobs on the line in areas with high unemployment. And that’s not to mention the sky high need for oil and gas in California despite the green energy revolution going on. These environmental groups are doing everything to force these companies out, despite many pumping in money to local economies and into environmental causes. They’re just grasping at straws right now to find something that sticks.”
The lawsuit, filed in the California Superior Court of Alameda County, is expected to be brought to court later this year.
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