In one of her last major legal actions before leaving office as California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, along with the California Coastal Commission (jointly the “Attorney General”), filed suit against various federal agencies in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, challenging the issuance of the Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (“PEA”) and Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) for well stimulation treatments on the Southern California Outer Continental Shelf. The December 19, 2016 Complaint names the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (jointly the “Agencies”) as defendants. The Attorney General’s lawsuit follows similar lawsuits filed by the Environmental Defense Center and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper on November 11, 2016, and a separate suit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”) on November 15, 2016.
The Proposed Action is the approval of well stimulation treatments at 22 production platforms on 43 leases on the Southern California Outer Continental Shelf, which sits off the coast of the southern half of the state. The Complaint asserts that the Agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and the Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) because they issued the FONSI for the Proposed Action without adequate environmental review. The Agencies “improperly concluded that allowing such activities would result in no significant impacts, in violation of the requirements of [NEPA],” despite the substantial record showing the potential for significant environmental effects. Complaint, at 3. Further, the Attorney General alleges that the Agencies violated the CZMA by failing to determine whether the Proposed Action is consistent to the “maximum extent practicable” with the enforceable policies in California’s coastal zone management program.
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