DOI and NMFS Reach Agreement with Center for Biological Diversity Regarding Coastal Drilling in California

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release on Wednesday detailing an agreement they had reached with the Department of the Interior and National Marine Fisheries Service. The agreement will mandate that agencies re-examine the risks that oil and gas drilling poses to whales and other endangered species.

The agreement was made to resolve a lawsuit that the Center for Biological Diversity had filed regarding an October 2021 oil spill near Huntington Beach that resulted from a subsea pipeline. According to the terms of the agreement, agencies must conduct new analyses that “consider how offshore-drilling activity affects newly designated critical habitat… and consider implementing certain mitigation measures, such as requiring oil and gas vessels to slow down to avoid striking and killing whales and other animals.”

The existing analyses for oil and gas activity were completed by agencies in 2017 under the Trump Administration. These analyses were the first completed in over 3 years and concluded that drilling on the California coast would not pose a risk to threatened and endangered species. They explained their findings by asserting that “an oil spill is unlikely and that if it did occur it would be limited to 8,400 gallons.” The October 2021 oil spill was significantly larger than this estimate, which drove the Center’s lawsuit. The agencies will be expected to complete the new analysis within one year.

“Decade after decade, oil spill after oil spill, the federal government has failed to properly examine how offshore drilling threatens endangered whales and other animals. A comprehensive, science-driven analysis should show that drilling off California is just too risky to wildlife and our climate and must be phased out,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans legal director, Kristen Monsell.