A conservation group said the federal government must stop approving offshore fracking from oil platforms in California's Santa Barbara Channel under the settlement of a lawsuit it filed.
The group, the Center for Biological Diversity, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, had challenged what it said was the U.S. Department of the Interior's practice of rubber-stamping fracking off California's coast without engaging the public or analyzing fracking's threats to ocean ecosystems, coastal communities and marine life.
The settlement reached on Friday prohibits officials from authorizing fracking practices in federal waters until the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement complete an environmental review, the Center for Biological Diversity said.
The pause, however, will not likely affect production at large because California has not been producing much offshore oil lately.
Oil companies have fracked at least 200 wells in Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and in the wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel, the Center for Biological Diversity said.
The settlement could potentially affect oversight of all federally permitted offshore fracking, including fracking in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the group said.
The U.S. Department of the Interior could not be reached immediately for comment.
(Reporting by Anet Josline Pinto in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler)