The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Clare Lakewood, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 316-8615, 
Nayamin Martinez, Central California Environmental Justice Network, (559) 907-2047,
Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch, (805) 617-4610 x 1,
Genevieve Gale, Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, (559) 960-0361,
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626,

Trump Releases Plan to Reopen California Public Lands to Drilling, Fracking

Proposal Targets More Than 1 Million Acres for Oil Leases


The Trump administration today released its draft plan to reopen more than a million acres of public land and mineral estate in central California to oil drilling and fracking. The plan would end a five-year-old moratorium on leasing federal public land in the state to oil companies.

Today's draft "environmental impact statement" from the Bureau of Land Management proposes opening up 1,011,470 acres of public land and federal mineral estate in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties to fossil fuel extraction.

"Trump's plan would unleash a fracking frenzy that puts California's people and wildlife in harm's way," said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "This administration is dead set on letting oil and gas companies dig up every last drop of dirty fuel. Putting these public lands back at the mercy of the fossil fuel industry would be a huge blow to our state's future."

"The San Joaquin Valley has the worst air quality in the U.S. and experiences severe groundwater depletion and contamination," said Nayamin Martinez, director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network. "These problems are only going to be exacerbated if oil extraction and fracking are allowed on public lands. We should learn from the damage we have done to fenceline communities in Kern County, where thousands of low-income residents live near oil wells that emit benzene and other dangerous pollutants."

The BLM has not issued a single lease in California since 2013, when a federal judge first ruled that the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing oil leases in Monterey County without considering fracking's environmental dangers.

"This proposal targets some of our region's most iconic landscapes, including state parks, nature reserves, recreation areas and national parks, forests and monuments," said Los Padres ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper. "Residents throughout the central coast who care about the fate of these lands should let their voices be heard during the comment period."

Fracking is an extreme oil-extraction process that blasts toxic chemicals mixed with water underground to crack rocks. According to the BLM, about 90 percent of new oil and gas wells on public lands are fracked.

A 2015 report from the California Council on Science and Technology concluded that fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, dangerously close to underground drinking water supplies, with unusually high concentrations of toxic chemicals. The public lands at stake encompass "numerous groundwater systems that contribute to the annual water supply used by neighboring areas for agricultural and urban purposes," a federal judge noted in 2016.

"Oil and gas extraction is one of the largest industrial polluters in the San Joaquin Valley, emitting dangerous particle pollution, smog-forming volatile gases and toxic air contaminants," said Genevieve Gale, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition. "Additional air pollution from expanded operations adds insult to injury, keeping Valley residents at risk and limiting our ability to achieve clean air."

"Expanding extraction of dirty fossil fuels on our public lands threatens the health of our communities and the future of our climate," said Monica Embrey, a senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club. "We will push back every step of the way against this reckless plan to subject more of California's lands, wildlife, and communities to fracking."

"Californians don't want fracking on our beautiful public lands any more than President Trump wants fracking on the greens of his Mar-a-Lago golf course," said Greg Loarie, an attorney at Earthjustice. "There's no place for this backwards plan in California's clean energy future."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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