A lawsuit filed today by environmental organizations seeks to block a federal plan to open up more than a million acres of public land and mineral rights in central California to drilling and fracking. Earthjustice filed the suit against the Bureau of Land Management in the Central District of California, Western Division, on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres ForestWatch.
The groups are suing BLM for approving a resource management plan that would allow oil and gas drilling and fracking on vast stretches of public land and mineral rights across California’s Central and San Joaquin valleys, the southern Sierra Nevada, and in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties along California’s central coast.
In 2013, a federal judge ruled BLM violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without considering the environmental risks of fracking.
Today’s lawsuit points out that BLM failed to consider a reasonable range of alternatives and failed to adequately analyze and disclose the impacts of fracking on air quality, water, and wildlife, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. BLM’s resource management plan opens federal land to fracking without any meaningful analysis of fracking-related risks, including the use of toxic chemicals and pollution threats to California’s precious water supplies during an historic drought.
According to a California Council on Science and Technology report, oil companies frack about half of all new wells drilled in California. Fracking intensifies environmental damages already occurring from existing oil and gas production on federal land. The impacts of fracking range from destruction of wildlife habitat and degradation of air quality to the contamination of California’s water and contributions to global climate change.
“Central California is ground zero for oil and gas drilling and yet the Bureau of Land Management is ignoring the elephant in the room by opening millions of federal acres to these intensifying extraction activities without meaningfully addressing the impacts,” said Earthjustice Attorney Tamara Zakim. “The Bureau of Land Management should not make planning decisions that facilitate the expansion of fracking activities in California, while turning its back to the dirty realities Californians face from such a decision.”
“These public lands are part of a vast network of treasured landscapes stretching from the crest of the Sierra Nevada to the Central Coast,” said Los Padres ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper. “Unfortunately, the BLM’s plan would auction off these lands to the highest bidder, placing them—and the clean water they provide to our farms and communities—at grave risk from oil development and fracking.”
“We can’t allow fracking pollution to threaten California’s beautiful public lands,” said Clare Lakewood, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “From oil spills to water contamination, the oil industry has wreaked havoc in California. But the federal government wants to shrug off those risks and turn over vast stretches of our state to oil companies for drilling and fracking.”