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For Immediate Release, May 7, 2013

Contact: Brendan Cummings, 760-366-2232 ext. 304,

BLM Postpones All California Oil and Gas Lease Sales After Fracking Legal Victory

Judge Ruled Agency Must Address Fracking Risks When Auctioning Public Lands

SAN FRANCISCO— About four weeks after a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration violated the law by leasing California public land for oil development without considering the risks of fracking, the Bureau of Land Management has postponed all oil and gas lease sales in California for the rest of the fiscal year.

The judge’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. It was the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the risks of fracking.

The BLM cites sequester-related budget cuts as the reason for the postponement, but lease sales continue in other states.

“Whether the BLM admits it or not, the agency knows it can’t lawfully hold additional lease sales in California without a full environmental review of the serious risks fracking poses to our air, water and wildlife,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center. “The BLM’s decision to cancel planned lease sales in California for 2013 is a welcome sign that the agency finally recognizes that its rubber-stamp approach to oil leasing is no longer viable.”

Fracking employs huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The controversial technique has already been used in hundreds — perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells. Last year the BLM estimated that about 90 percent of wells currently drilled on federal lands were fracked. 

Oil companies are increasingly interested in fracking the Monterey Shale, a geological formation beneath the BLM leases that contains an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Extracting the oil will almost certainly require fracking, which is known to pollute air, contaminate water and destroy natural landscapes.

Fracking routinely uses numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol and benzene. A recent Colorado School of Public Health study found that fracking increases cancer risk and contributes to serious neurological and respiratory problems in people living near fracked wells.

Wildlife is also at risk. Fish can die when fracking fluid contaminates streams and rivers, birds can be poisoned by chemicals in wastewater ponds, and the intense industrial development that accompanies fracking pushes threatened or endangered animals out of wild areas they need to survive.

Continued drilling and fracking also releases huge amounts of methane, an extremely powerful global warming gas. Methane is about 105 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period.

Learn more about California fracking and the Center's Climate Law Institute.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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