LOS ANGELES (AP) — The federal government has approved three new fracking jobs off the shores of California as state coastal regulators voiced concerns about potential environmental impacts.
The work in the Santa Barbara Channel, site of a 1969 oil platform blowout, has not yet begun and it was not immediately clear when it would.
The disclosure Wednesday came as the California Coastal Commission attempts to exercise greater oversight of the contested practice known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep into rock formations to free oil.
The environmental impacts of fracking and other well stimulation techniques "are not well understood. To date, little data has been collected," said Alison Dettmer, a commission deputy director.
The agency launched an investigation into the extent of offshore fracking after The Associated Press last year documented at least a dozen instances of companies using the technique since the 1990s in federal waters.
Dettmer provided an update to commissioners at a hearing in Pismo Beach, a beach city 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Opponents held signs with a red "X'' over the word "Fracking."
The government oversees fracking that occurs more than three miles off the coast, but it has not distinguished the practice from regular drilling in the permit process. The state coastal commission can have a say regarding fracking jobs in federal waters if it determines the work presents a threat to water quality closer to shore.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, the AP found the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, the federal agency in charge of offshore drilling, approved a new project last March.
The bureau on Wednesday confirmed that it greenlighted three other fracking plans by the company DCOR LLC last year on an oil platform about nine miles offshore. While new oil leases have been prohibited since the 1980s, companies can still drill from about two dozen grandfathered-in platforms.