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For Immediate Release, February 25, 2009

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

Conservation Groups File Protest to Halt Damaging Oil and Gas Development;
Planned Lease Sale Threatens Environment,
Will Increase Greenhouse Emissions

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— Two conservation groups have filed a formal protest with the Bureau of Land Management to stop a March 11 sale of 23 oil and gas leases. 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 the endangered San Joaquin kit fox from continued oil and gas leasing in its habitat, including activity that will result from the planned March 11 lease sale.

The organizations — the Center for Biological Diversity and Desert Survivors — are asking the Bureau’s California state director to stop plans to offer 23 parcels of public land in sensitive habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox, a species whose numbers have been declining since its listing as an endangered species in 1967. In approving the sale, the Bureau authorized the leasing of 4,402 acres of public lands for oil and gas development, which includes building exploratory and developing wells, running seismic lines, and building access roads and vehicle routes. All parcels are located in Kern County in the San Joaquin Valley, which is home to a majority of California’s oil and gas development.

The Bureau ’s analysis of the environmental impacts of the lease sale relies on out-dated information and glosses over the impacts to kit fox and sensitive areas. It also gravely understates the emissions of greenhouse pollutants caused by oil and gas leasing, production and consumer consumption, as well as the likely impacts these emissions will have on a climate already in crisis.

“As California and the nation begin to address global warming, it is vital that federal agencies fully disclose and evaluate their projects’ greenhouse gas emissions,” said Melissa Thrailkill, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Now is the time for full disclosure of the true costs of energy development on our public lands.”

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 the kit fox. The agency relied on outdated information about the kit fox’s status and the impacts of the lease sale program on the species. All parcels up for leasing are located in critical kit fox habitat, intensifying one of the greatest threats to the species: habitat fragmentation.

“The information in the Bureau’s environmental documents misrepresents the full nature of continued oil and gas development in the San Joaquin Valley,” Thrailkill said. “It is based on outdated information, and if allowed to stand, will damage the local environment and push the kit fox ever closer to the edge of extinction.”

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