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California Public Land Sold to Frackers Despite Public Outcry

800,000 acres and counting going to fossil fuel industry on Obama's watch

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

The US Bureau of Land Management continued its widespread sale of public land to the fracking and oil industry on Wednesday in a federal auction of nearly 18,000 acres. The auction was met by dozens of anti-fracking protesters who say the continual sale of public lands to the fossil fuel industry, including 800,000 acres of land in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming for tar sands and oil shale development, puts short-term profits ahead of the planet.

(Source: EcoWatch) BLM spokesman David Christy said eight different groups—including oil companies—bid for the land Wednesday in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties. The agency plans to announce the "winners" within 24 hours.

Dozens of protesters in hazmat suits carried barrels labeled “Warning: Toxic Fracking Fluid” outside of the auction Wednesday morning.

“A fracking boom will devastate California’s beautiful public wildlands,” said Rose Braz, climate campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, who organized the protests along with several other groups. “The federal government should protect these beautiful public places, not sell them off to be drilled and fracked, risking irreparable harm to our air, water and climate.”

“Opening up thousands of acres of public land to oil and gas exploration would directly undercut our state's commitment to clean and renewable energy and endanger our already threatened water supply,” said Andrew Grinberg, program organizer at Clean Water Action. “We need to slow down and assess the long-term impacts of increased drilling, fracking and other enhanced oil and gas recovery processes on California's communities, environment and health, and the BLM should do its part by withholding these leases."

The land sale is part of a widespread push by the Obama administration's BLM to sell off vast amounts of public land for toxic hydraulic fracturing procedures and shale oil development.

The administration's plan to open the hundreds of thousands of acres to fossil fuel development is based on changes made to a 2008 Bush administration land allocation decision that were challenged by environmental groups over environmental, water and habitat concerns, but subsequently still allow for vast amounts of environmental destruction, environmental groups maintain.