LONG BEACH, Calif.
The oil-production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most-populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed.
In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach — some of the region’s most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions — oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
Just this year in Long Beach Harbor, the nation’s second-largest container port, an oil company with exclusive rights to drill there completed five fracks on palm-tree-lined, man-made islands. Other companies fracked more than a dozen times from old oil platforms off Huntington Beach and Seal Beach over the past five years.
Though there is no evidence offshore hydraulic fracturing has led to any spills or chemical leaks, the practice occurs with little state or federal oversight of the operations.
The state agency that leases lands and waters to oil companies said officials found new instances of fracking after searching records as part of a review after the AP reported this summer about fracking in federal waters off California, an area from 3 miles to 200 miles offshore. The state oil permitting agency said it doesn’t track fracking.
As the state continues its investigation into the extent of fracking — both in federal waters and closer to shore — and develops ways to increase oversight under a law that takes effect in 2015, environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on the practice.
“How is it that nobody in state government knew anything about this? It’s a huge institutional failure,” said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Offshore fracking is far more common than anyone realized.”