A conservation group says in a lawsuit that the US government failed to protect whales and other endangered animals by underestimating the potential for an oil spill, like the recent oil pipeline leak crude off the California coast.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday claiming that Department of the Interior agencies and the National Marine Fisheries Service had failed to ensure that offshore oil and gas production would not endanger endangered and threatened species under US law.
The lawsuit says the Fisheries Department found in a 2017 analysis that oil and gas production was unlikely to adversely affect endangered marine life off the California coast, that there was a low probability of an oil spill at sea and that if it did occur, it would probably involve no more than 8,400 gallons. The lawsuit asks the court to void the analysis and ban further oil activity unless government agencies comply with the law protecting endangered species.
In October, an offshore pipeline spilled 25,000 gallons of crude into waters off Southern California. The spill was not as large as initially feared, but shut down beaches for a week and fishing for more than a month and left more than 100 animals, mostly birds, covered in oil.
Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said researchers have not confirmed that the oiled marine mammals in the spill are threatened or endangered species.
This is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed over the spill off the coast of Orange County. Last year, a federal grand jury accused the pipeline operator of ignoring alarms alerting workers to the pipeline rupture.
The Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management declined to comment on the lawsuit. Messages were left with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.