WASHINGTON -- Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) called for a moratorium on offshore fracking in federal waters on Tuesday, requesting a comprehensive study of its environmental and public health impacts.
“I have been seriously concerned about offshore fracking since recent reports first brought it to light,” Capps said in a statement.
In a related letter to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency calling for the moratorium and study, Capps cited records detailing at least 15 incidents of fracking in federal waters off California over the last two decades. She wrote that the activities had been approved with "overly broad and outdated plans" that did not adequately account for the risks.
Fracking involves injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to stimulate the release of fossil fuels. Onshore fracking, which has generated serious environmental debate itself, has been used extensively in the extraction of oil and gas from major shale formations in more than a dozen states.
Less is known about the impact of offshore fracking. "This is a significant data gap, and we need to know what the impacts are before offshore fracking becomes widespread," Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia marine scientist told the Associated Press.
AP reported in August that federal regulators have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from clean water laws, meaning companies can release those fluids into the ocean "without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects."
"This inadequate oversight is very troubling," Capps said in her letter. "There is a great deal we do not yet know about the environmental and public health impacts of fracking onshore, let alone offshore."
In October, AP reported that fracking activity off the coast of California, which occurs in state and federal waters, was more extensive than previously thought. Interviews and public records requests revealed that oil companies had used fracking more than 200 times at six different sites over the last 20 years near Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach.
AP wrote that there was no evidence of spills or chemical leaks as a result of the offshore fracking, but pointed out that fracking operations receive little state or federal oversight.