Federal Analysis Downplays Fracking’s Threats to Public Land in California

SAN JOSE, CA, Jan. 9, 2017— Three years after a federal judge rebuked the Bureau of Land Management for ignoring the risks of hydraulic fracturing in California, the agency today issued a revised draft “environmental impact statement” that still fails to carefully evaluate fracking pollution’s threats to public land along the state’s Central Coast.

With today’s draft environmental impact statement and resource-management plan, the BLM is moving toward auctioning about 400,000 acres of federal land in central California to oil companies. But the revised analysis offers little new information about the pollution from fracking and other extreme extraction techniques that would accompany such oil development in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties.

The draft plan is open for public comment for 90 days. The decision whether to frack California’s public lands will be made by the Trump administration.

“This threadbare analysis shows that federal officials still don’t understand their duty to protect California’s public lands from fracking pollution,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s alarming that the Trump administration will now decide whether to sacrifice some of our state’s most beautiful wild places to the oil industry for drilling and fracking. It’s particularly outrageous in Monterey and San Benito counties, where voters have already banned fracking. Gov. Brown must step up and protect Californians from Trump’s plans to unleash a fracking frenzy on our state.”

A federal judge ruled in 2013 that the BLM violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without considering the environmental risks of fracking. The ruling responded to a suit brought by the Center and the Sierra Club that challenged a BLM decision to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in southern Monterey County to oil companies.

The BLM has not held a single oil and gas lease sale in California since that 2013 ruling, which was the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the dangers of fracking. The BLM has estimated that about 90 percent of wells drilled on federal lands nationwide are fracked.

“California’s air, water and wildlife have all benefited from the three-year-old moratorium on leasing our public lands to the oil industry,” Siegel said. “For the sake of our environment and our climate, it’s critical not to open up these areas to oil companies. We’ve got to leave this oil in the ground.”

Fracking blasts toxic chemicals mixed with water underground to crack rock formations and extract oil and gas. Both Monterey County and San Benito County voters recently passed ballot measures banning the controversial technique.

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 chemical concentrations. That poses a serious threat to drinking water aquifers during the worst drought in California history.

To preserve a livable planet, scientists say we must keep most fossil fuels in the ground. A recent analysis found that halting new federal fossil-fuel leasing on America’s public lands and in our oceans could keep 450 billion tons of climate pollution in the ground.

www.biologicaldiversity.org