Environmental groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in California claiming that state regulators had failed to “consider or evaluate” the risks of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland against the California Department of Conservation (CDC), Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Earthworks, Environmental Working Group and Sierra Club. The coalition asked the court to declare the CDC in violation of CEQA for its “failure to consider, evaluate, and mitigate the impacts of fracking when approving permits for oil and gas wells.”

The CDC is “charged with regulating all oil and gas well activity in California,” but “it admits it has not permitted or monitored the impacts of fracking and has never formally evaluated the potential environmental and health effects of the practice, even as it continues to approve new permits for oil and gas wells,” the groups said.

Earthjustice attorney George Torgun said Californians “don’t know where or when the drillers are fracking, what chemicals they are using, what pollutants they’re releasing into the air and water, and what other risks they are taking. That’s because the state hasn’t required them to disclose any information on fracking activities.

“Public outcry has finally forced the department to take a look at fracking. They’ve held workshops and say they’re considering regulations. But the problem needs attention now before too much damage is done.”

In August the state legislature gave up on measures to more closely regulate fracking after missing deadlines to move proposed bills out of committees (see Shale Daily, Aug. 20).

“By turning a blind eye to fracking, California officials are letting oil companies endanger our air, water and climate,” said CBD’s Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute. “If the oil industry fracks the 14 billion bbl of unconventional oil in the Monterey Shale, they’ll light the fuse on a carbon bomb that will demolish California’s efforts to fight climate change.”

According to the lawsuit, the agency has been “rubber stamping oil and gas drilling activity, declaring it exempt from environmental review or issuing ‘negative declarations’ that such activity will have ‘no significant effect’ on the environment, without any study or mention of the potential impacts from fracking.”