In February 2016 the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (overseeing the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf Region) released a draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Use of Well Stimulation Treatments (WST) on the Southern California Outer Continental Shelf. The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) commissioned us to conduct a third-party review of the draft EA and the conclusions drawn in the document that no significant impacts are likely to occur from WST’s. Our review highlighted four main points that should be addressed before determining whether or not significant impacts are likely to occur from WST’s.
1) Evaluation of discharge toxicity focuses on chemistry of WST injection fluids and not the composition of flowback fluids, which are being discharged;
2) Ecological impacts from discharges of WST flowback fluids have not been studied;
3) Many constituents in WST have unknown toxicity; and
4) There is insufficient justification for the determination that whole effluent toxicity (WET) testing required through the NPDES permit will limit the risk from WST discharges
With help from our review, EDC and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper filed a subsequent lawsuit based on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act requirements. Federal agencies filed a motion to dismiss this case, and in July 2017, the federal court in Los Angeles ruled in favor of EDC and SBCK for their right to challenge the federal government’s NEPA decision in court.