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East County News Service

Compiled from California News Service and California Attorney General’s office resources

December 13, 2019 (Ventura) -- The Trump administration yesterday took the final step to allow oil and gas drilling on over 1 million acres of federal public land on California's central coast and San Joaquin Valley, despite a flood of public comment in opposition.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will now allow new lease sales in 2020 on land that stretches across Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.

Rebecca August, director of advocacy for the Santa Barbara-based group Los Padres ForestWatch, calls fracking "a very toxic process."

"Fracking certainly causes impacts to local water supplies, to air quality," she states, California News Service reports. "There's a lot of associated truck traffic. There's toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer that can be forced through water supplies."

August also complains that fracking wastewater creates a disposal issue and notes the drill sites emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas linked to climate change.

The BLM's environmental impact study declared that fracking will pose no significant impacts to wildlife, water, public health or the environment.

The BLM had not approved a new oil or gas lease in California since 2013, when a judge ruled that prior leases had violated federal environmental law.

August says the oil in the Santa Barbara area poses a particular threat to air quality.

"And the Central Coast is home to some of the dirtiest oil - most fossil-fuel-intensive, carbon-intensive oil, you know - that there is," she points out. "And that generally requires a good deal of refinement, and that causes a lot of emissions."

A separate office of the BLM opened up more than 725,000 additional acres to drilling around the Monterey area in October.

Conservation groups are already suing over that decision, and are expected to challenge these new lease sales in court as well. 

California Attorney General Becerra today issued a statement in response to the Trump Administration’s decision to open up more than one million acres of public lands in Central California to oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking). In June, Attorney General Becerra filed a comment letter responding to the BLM’s deficient draft supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS), which fails to fully evaluate the project’s impact on the communities and environment of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura Counties.

“The Trump Administration’s Bureau of Land Management wants to expose more than a million acres of public land in Central California to drilling and fracking using a patently deficient environment impact study,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s not how we do things in California. We’re prepared to do whatever we must to protect the health and safety of our people. We intend to be good stewards of our public lands.”

On April 26, 2019, BLM issued a draft supplemental EIS evaluating its plan to open more than one million acres of federal lands to oil and gas leasing. 

Fracking is a procedure in which oil and gas producers inject water, sand, and certain chemicals at high pressure into tight rock formations to extract oil and gas. While most of the fluid is water, the process also includes toxic chemicals that pollute nearby groundwater and flow back to the surface for above-ground storage. 

A growing body of evidence points to fracking as a significant cause of water and air pollution and low-level seismic events, the California Attorney General’s office notes.


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