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OAKLAND, August 1, 2022 – California Attorney General Bonta, Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced a settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) prohibiting new oil and gas leasing in Central California while the Bureau conducts a supplemental environmental review. In January 2020, the Attorney General, Governor Newsom, and the state agencies filed a lawsuit challenging a Trump-era plan to open up more than one million acres of public lands in Central California to oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), without conducting an adequate environmental review of the plan’s impacts on California’s resources and residents.
“Fracking is dangerous for our communities, damaging to our environment, and out of step with California’s climate goals,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The Trump Administration recklessly opened Central California up to new oil and gas drilling without considering how fracking can hurt communities by causing polluted groundwater, toxic air emissions, minor earthquakes, climate impacts, and more. In keeping with the Bureau of Land Management’s mission to preserve the health of our public lands, it must reassess this Trump-Era mistake.”
Fracking is an extractive process in which oil and gas producers inject water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into tight rock formations to extract oil and gas. The chemicals involved in this process are often highly dangerous and can pollute nearby groundwater and release air toxins. A growing body of evidence points to fracking as causing significant water and air pollution, harm to imperiled species, land subsidence or sinking, and low-level seismic events. In its plan to open up Central California to fracking, the Bureau failed to adequately consider these significant harms and improperly assumed that only four wells per year would utilize fracking — grossly distorting its consideration of environmental impacts.
In a lawsuit filed in January 2020, the Attorney General, Governor Newsom, and the state agencies alleged that the Bureau’s environmental review of the project failed to fully evaluate the significant and adverse impacts on the communities and on the environment of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura Counties — areas where pollution burdens and strains on water resources are already high.
Today’s settlement imposes a moratorium on new oil and gas leases until the Bureau conducts an adequate environmental review. Specifically, the Bureau agrees to not hold any lease sales until it finalizes a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) that supersedes its flawed 2019 review. Attorney General Bonta, Governor Newsom, and the state agencies reserve the right to comment on the supplemental EIS and to challenge the new EIS in court if necessary.
A copy of the settlement, which is subject to court approval, is available here.