The Trump administration on Dec. 12 took the final step to re-open federal land to new oil drilling and fracking in California after a six-year moratorium.
The final approval, a Record of Decision issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), allows drilling and fracking leasing to resume on one million acres across Central California, including lands in or near popular parks, schools, critical water supplies, and nature preserves.
The Record of Decision includes federal land and mineral estate across eight counties from San Luis Obispo County in the north to Ventura County in the south, and from the coast inland to the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The decision follows a BLM-funded study asserting that fracking poses no significant environmental or health impacts to lands in and adjacent to national forests, parks and monuments; state, county and city parks and beaches; state and federal wildlife refuges and ecological reserves; important waterways like rivers and reservoirs; school campuses; segments of the Pacific Crest Trail; and other especially sensitive areas.
“Fracking and other development on or near lands that are set aside specifically to protect threatened wildlife, critical water supplies, and rare ecosystems will cause significant impacts,” said ForestWatch executive director Jeff Kuyper. “The BLM was charged with assessing those impacts and the plan’s contribution to climate change.
“The BLM squandered an opportunity to incorporate science and public input into this controversial plan, and it’ll likely end up in court again as a result.”
For an interactive map showing the lands now open for leasing, click on https://forestwatch.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=96d9c40f4bdb48c880d19fb8d1229bc7. A summary of key areas is attached.
The action follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of a review of the state’s fracking regulations to ensure they provide adequate protection of the environment and public safety.
“More fracking, with its with water and air pollution, earthquakes, and chemical spills, is the opposite direction that Californians want to go,” said Rebecca August, advocacy director at Los Padres ForestWatch. “The Trump administration dismissed the voices of thousands of residents as part of its nationwide effort to cut the public out of decisions that impact their communities and environment.”
Nearly 100,000 area residents submitted letters and hundreds attended public meetings expressing concern over water and air pollution, public health and climate impacts, and damage to protected wildlife habitat and sensitive species.
The BLM refused to consider most public input by rejecting what it considered form letters, verbal testimony, and comments that did not provide what it termed “substantive” information. The BLM has failed to provide ForestWatch with copies of the comments received, despite several requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Cities, counties, Native American tribes and organizations, NGOs, the US Navy, and elected officials were among those who sent letters opposing the plan which would allow oil companies to lease federally controlled mineral rights for oil development for as little as $2 an acre.
The cities of Ojai, San Luis Obispo, and Carpinteria, and the county of Santa Barbara all passed resolutions opposing the BLM’s flawed study and new federal leasing that would threaten public resources and current land use.
— Rebecca August for Los Padres ForestWatch.