Thursday, October 21, 2021
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Lawsuit Launched After California Oil Spill to Protect Whales, Other Endangered Animals From Offshore Drilling


HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent today to sue the Biden administration if it does not immediately reexamine the offshore oil industry’s threat to California’s endangered species and their habitats.

Today’s letter, sent to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, notes that the government’s existing Endangered Species Act analysis failed to predict or plan for an oil spill as big as the ongoing disaster in Southern California’s San Pedro Bay.

An undersea pipeline connected to drilling platforms off Orange County ruptured last Friday, spewing an estimated 144,000 gallons of oil into the ocean. The spill has fouled sensitive beaches and wetlands, forced the closure of fisheries, and harmed or killed dozens of fish and birds, including threatened snowy plovers.

“These dead, oil-soaked birds and fish are gruesome proof of offshore drilling’s harm to wildlife, and federal officials never saw it coming,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center. “The Biden administration needs to reexamine the oil industry’s threat to marine life, our climate and frontline communities. A robust analysis would show that oil drilling off California must be immediately phased out and all the old, decaying infrastructure scheduled for decommissioning.”

The bureaus manage and permit oil and gas activity in federal waters. They are required by section 7 of the Endangered Species Act to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of these activities on threatened and endangered species and their habitats.

The Trump administration completed an Endangered Species Act analysis for oil and gas activity off California in 2017. That analysis concludes that an oil spill is unlikely and that if it did occur it would be limited to 8,400 gallons.

The Center’s letter highlights how the recent oil spill — more than 17 times larger — renders that entire analysis unlawful. The letter also points to new information regarding the threat of vessel strikes from oil and gas activity, how existing oil drilling worsens the climate crisis, and newly designated critical habitat for humpback whales.

The Center’s letter seeks to compel the bureaus to suspend approval of all new drilling permits off California’s coast while the bureaus reexamine the impacts of such activities on endangered species.

Today’s notice of intent to sue is required before the Center can file a lawsuit to compel the bureaus to comply with the Endangered Species Act.



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