Gulf of Mexico fracking locations. See interactive map. Map courtesy Center for Biological Diversity.
WASHINGTON— Federal officials permitted more than 1,200 offshore fracks by oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico from 2010 to 2014, according to federal documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity. The fracks occurred in at least 630 different wells off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama (see interactive map), and many took place in critical habitat for imperiled loggerhead sea turtles. Oil companies were also allowed to dump about 76 billion gallons of waste fluid into Gulf waters in 2014.
“The Obama administration is essentially letting oil companies frack at will in Gulf ecosystems and dump billions of gallons of oil waste into coastal waters,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “Every offshore frack increases the risk to wildlife and coastal communities, yet federal officials have been just rubber-stamping this toxic practice in the Gulf of Mexico for years.”
The Center obtained the information following an agreement that settled a lawsuit challenging the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s failure to disclose documents regarding the scope of offshore fracking in the Gulf under the Freedom of Information Act.
Documents also show that the federal government has been permitting offshore fracking in the Gulf of Mexico with no site-specific analysis of the threats to imperiled species or the environment, and also without public involvement.
The federal government has yet to release all the documents, so the full scope of offshore fracking is likely even larger. For example, at least one of the wells connected to the flow line involved in a nearly 90,000-gallon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last month was fracked, according to federal data. The federal government approved the frack job in 2015.
Offshore fracking blasts vast volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals beneath the seafloor at pressures high enough to fracture rocks and release oil and gas. The practice increases environmental damages beyond those of conventional oil drilling by increasing pollution and the risks of oil spills and earthquakes.
Oil and gas companies are allowed to dump fracking chemicals mixed with wastewater into the Gulf of Mexico. A Center analysis of federal documents reveals that oil companies operating in federal waters off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana discharged more than 76 billion gallons of such chemical-laced waters in 2014 alone.
“Offshore fracking is an inherently dangerous activity that simply doesn’t belong in the Gulf of Mexico,” Monsell said. “And the federal government certainly has no right to give the oil industry free rein to frack our oceans — or to keep coastal communities in the dark about this toxic industrial activity.”
At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish, Center scientists have found. Other scientists have identified some common fracking chemicals to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals.
Source: Biological Diversity org