On Thursday, Feb. 19, the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”) filed suit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”), and the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. (CBD v. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management et al., Case No. 2:15-cv-01189.) The complaint alleges that the federal agencies issued permits for drilling off the coast of California without adequate environmental review. Specifically, CBD claims that the federal government violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act “without analyzing fracking pollution’s threats to ocean ecosystems, coastal communities and marine wildlife, including sea otters, fish, sea turtles and whales.” (CBD Press Release, Feb. 19, 2015.)

This isn’t the first complaint CBD has filed against BSEE and BOEM. On January 8, 2015, CBD sued the agencies in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking information about hydraulic fracturing activity in the Gulf of Mexico. (CBD v. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement et al., Case No. 1:15-cv-00022.) The complaint was filed when the agencies failed to respond to CBD’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests in October 2014.

CBD has previously urged the federal government to stop offshore fracking. Although the government has not taken steps to halt the activity, federal agencies have made efforts to increase the availability of information on fracking activities. In January 2015, as a part of a revised National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) general permit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) announced increased disclosure requirements. Effective March 1, 2015, the permit will require offshore oil and gas operators in Southern California to disclose what chemicals are being discharged into the Pacific Ocean from their operations.

By Mike Mills (michael.mills@stoel.com) and Shannon Morrissey. Ms. Morrissey is a Law Clerk with Stoel Rives LLP and is not currently licensed to practice law in California.