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For Immediate Release, June 8, 2009

Contact: Melissa Thrailkill, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 313

California Oil and Gas Development Threatens Imperiled Species and
More Greenhouse Gas Emissions

HOLLISTER, Calif.— Three conservation groups filed a formal protest today with the Bureau of Land Management to stop a June 23 sale of 21 oil and gas leases in Monterey County. The groups also sent the Bureau a 60-day notice of their intent to sue for violations of the Endangered Species Act regarding the impacts to endangered and threatened species in the region from continued oil and gas leasing in their habitat. Both documents challenge the Bureau’s reliance on outdated and inadequate studies of the impacts to the environment and biodiversity to support its uninformed conclusion that the sale will not have adverse effects.

The organizations – the Center for Biological Diversity, Ventana Conservation and Land Trust, and Los Padres ForestWatch – are asking the Bureau’s California state director to stop plans to offer 21 parcels for leasing, covering more than 35,000 acres of public land in a region home to sensitive wildlife areas and several endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox and the California condor.

In approving the lease sale, the Bureau relied on environmental studies that failed to analyze in any fashion how these particular lease sales will affect air and water quality, future water supplies, an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change. The notice of the sale, as well as the sale itself, comes shortly after the Environmental Protection Agency’s April announcement of its proposed finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public health and welfare. The Bureau made no attempt, however, to disclose the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the lease sale and eventual combustion of the oil and gas produced. Nor did it make any attempt to analyze the impacts these emissions will have on a climate already in crisis.

“Fossil fuel combustion is the single largest contributor to the climate crisis, yet the Bureau of Land Management has chosen to wear a blindfold rather than consider the greenhouse gas consequences of this new oil development,” said Melissa Thrailkill, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Success in this protest will compel the agency to remove that blindfold and fully consider the true costs of energy development on our public lands.”

The groups also challenged the agency’s decision to move forward with the lease sale without first notifying potentially affected landowners of the sale.

“The BLM's failure to notice property owners of the potential for lands to be converted to oil and gas extraction and processing is deeply contrary to the culture of south County and inconsistent with the agricultural orientation of this area,” said Steve Craig, director of Ventana Conservation and Land Trust. “It’s likely that the oil is of poor grade, meaning extensive impacts on air quality from flaring and transportation needs, as well as on water quality and quantity. This proposal requires study, County participation, and careful environmental review before proceeding forward."

In addition, the groups also formally notified the Bureau of their intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act because, in approving the lease sale, the agency failed to adequately consider impacts to endangered species in the region, including the kit fox and California condor. The agency relied on outdated information about the species’ status and the impacts of the lease sale program on the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is dedicated to ensuring that atmospheric CO2 pollutant levels are reduced to below 350 ppm, which leading climate scientists warn is necessary to prevent devastating climate change. Further development of greenhouse gas-intensive energy sources – including new oil development – is fundamentally incompatible with achieving this goal. If greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately reduced, the current atmospheric CO2 level of 385 ppm will rise to approximately 500 ppm by mid-century, triggering mass wildlife extinctions, catastrophic global weather and ecosystem changes, and tragic human suffering.

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