Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 7, 2018

Contacts:  Clare Lakewood, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 316-8615,
Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch, (805) 617-4610 x 1,

Trump Administration Urged Not to Reopen California Public Lands to Drilling, Fracking

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— Seventy-two environmental, public-health and community groups sent a letter today to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke opposing the Trump administration’s plans to reopen more than a million acres of public land and mineral estate in central California to oil drilling and fracking.

Today’s letter responds to the Bureau of Land Management’s Aug. 8 request for comments on the harms of fracking on 400,000 acres of public land and an additional 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. That BLM request was the first step in a process that could end a five-year-old moratorium on leasing federal public land in the state to oil companies.

“These beautiful California landscapes are priceless, but Trump and Zinke want to sell them off to their oil industry buddies,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fracking these wild places would threaten our health, fuel the climate crisis and push endangered species like the San Joaquin kit fox to the brink of extinction.”

In 2015 the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres ForestWatch, represented by Earthjustice, successfully sued the BLM for approving a resource-management plan allowing oil and gas drilling and fracking on vast stretches of California’s public lands without adequately analyzing and disclosing fracking’s threats to air quality, water and wildlife.

As a result of the groups’ legal victory, the BLM agreed to complete a new analysis of the pollution risks of fracking before deciding whether to allow drilling and fracking on public land across California’s Central Valley, the southern Sierra Nevada and in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

The BLM has not held a single lease sale in California since 2013, when a federal judge first ruled that the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing oil leases in Monterey County without considering fracking’s environmental dangers. 

Fracking is an extreme oil-extraction process that blasts toxic chemicals mixed with water underground to crack rocks. The public lands at stake encompass “numerous groundwater systems that contribute to the annual water supply used by neighboring areas for agricultural and urban purposes,” a federal judge noted in 2016.

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 concentrations of chemicals, including substances dangerous to human health and the environment.

San Luis Obispo residents, concerned about the harms fracking poses to their county, placed a voter initiative on the November election ballot. If passed, Measure G will ban fracking and new oil and gas wells in San Luis Obispo County.

“Residents throughout central California are concerned about the impacts of drilling and fracking near our treasured forests, wildlife refuges, national monuments, nature preserves, schools and trails,” said Los Padres ForestWatch executive director Jeff Kuyper. “Together we’re telling the Trump administration loud and clear that we’re not willing to pollute and industrialize these iconic landscapes.”

San Joaquin kit fox

San Joaquin kit fox photo courtesy USFWS. This images is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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