U.S. Implements Moratorium on Fracking in California Waters

The federal government is finally studying the offshore environmental impact of the controversial drilling technique.

Image via Flickr user Steven Storm

The waters off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, are some of the most biodiverse in the world—home to thousands of threatened sea otters, blue whales, sea turtles, and several endangered species of baby boomer. The waters are also home to six fracking sites blasting toxic chemicals into the ocean.

As of this past Friday, some relief is coming. In legal settlements with the Environmental Defense Center and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Department of the Interior agreed to stop issuing new fracking permits for waters off the coast of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties until it completes a review of offshore fracking’s impact on water quality and marine life. The federal government has never studied the issue before.

“Once federal officials take a hard look at the dangers, they’ll have to conclude that offshore fracking is far too big of a gamble [for] our oceans’ life-support systems,” CBD attorney Kristen Monsell said in a statement.

Image by Mike Baird via Wikimedia Commons

As reported in 2013 by the Associated Press and nonprofit news outlet Truthout, oil companies have used fracking (the high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of rock to stimulate underwater oil wells) in California waters for more than two decades, with none of the environmental oversight required by federal law. Instead, federal regulators “permitted” fracking applications by simply modifying existing drilling permits, without re-evaluating the risks of new types of operations.

Yet the risks are numerous. At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used offshore in California are deadly or harmful to a variety of marine species, including sea otters, according to an independent report released in 2014 by the California Council on Science and Technology. Offshore fracking can also induce earthquakes—making the fact that all of Southern California’s offshore wells are located within three miles of an active fault worrisome—and it exposes coastal communities to air pollutants that can cause strokes, heart attacks, and cancer.

The federal environmental assessment will be published in May. In response to the settlement, the American Petroleum Institute issued a statement calling the review unnecessary and the permit moratorium unjustified.

via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

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"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

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Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

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Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

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via Keith Boykin / Twitter

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"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

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