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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 15, 2005

Contact: Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch, 805-252-4277
Pamela Flick, Defenders of Wildlife, 916-203-6927
John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, 312-237-1443

Conservation Groups File Appeal to Halt Oil Drilling Expansion in Los Padres National Forest

SANTA BARBARA, CA – Three conservation groups today filed an administrative appeal challenging a recent decision by the U.S. Forest Service to expand oil drilling in California’s Los Padres National Forest. The California Attorney General’s Office filed a separate appeal of the decision on Tuesday.

In late July, the Forest Service approved a plan to allow oil drilling on an additional 52,075 acres of land in the Los Padres National Forest. The decision threatens popular recreation areas, wild lands, clean air and water, and habitat for several endangered species, including the California condor.

“The Los Padres National Forest is already contributing its fair share of oil development to the nation. In fact, the Los Padres has the highest rate of oil drilling in California. Our communities should not have to sacrifice even more of our clean water, scenic vistas, and recreation opportunities for less than a day’s supply of oil,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch.

According to the agency’s own estimates, new oil drilling in the Los Padres would yield only 17 million barrels of oil. This represents less than a day’s supply of oil at our nation’s current consumption rate.

“The agency’s plan requires a vast network of roads, pipelines, and transmission wires that will cut through the heart of some of the most sensitive areas of the forest, including key habitat for the critically endangered California condor,” said Kim Delfino, California Program Director for Defenders of Wildlife. “The Forest Service’s analysis fails to acknowledge the widespread impacts of drilling to sensitive wildlife species and the land and waterways they need to survive.”

The decision allows surface drilling along the boundaries of three Congressionally-designated wilderness areas, the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, and the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.

Slant drilling is allowed beneath portions of Sespe Creek and Piru Creek that are eligible for Wild & Scenic River designation.

During the public comment period for the plan, the Forest Service received 7,800 comments from the public. A vast majority of these comments – 99% – opposed new oil drilling in the Los Padres. Several local, state, and national legislators have joined in this opposition, including Congresswoman Lois Capps, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Assemblymember Pedro Nava, Santa Barbara County Supervisors Susan Rose and Salud Carbajal, and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett.

In analyzing the environmental impacts of the drilling plan, the Forest Service primarily relied on a 13-year-old report to conclude that new drilling would only impact 20 acres of the national forest. The report – dubbed the Reasonably Foreseeable Development Scenario – was written in 1993 and was never updated. In their appeal, the groups argue that this report is outdated and relies on inaccurate projections, severely underestimating today’s price of oil and understating the extent and probable environmental impacts of future oil drilling on Los Padres.

“The agency has relied on outdated data and unsubstantiated opinions to conclude that new oil drilling will not have any significant impacts,” said John Buse, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “In doing so, the Forest Service has failed to uphold the high level of scientific integrity called for by our nation’s longstanding environmental laws, and has acted recklessly toward condors, other endangered species, and the public’s right to recreate on public lands.”

The appeal also argues that the Forest Service failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of the drilling plan. The agency postponed much of this analysis until an unspecified later date.

The groups filing the appeal are Los Padres ForestWatch, based in Santa Barbara, California; Defenders of Wildlife, based in Washington, D.C.; and the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Arizona.

The U.S. Forest Service has 45 days to formally respond to the appeal. An appeal is the last step before a lawsuit can be filed to compel the agency to follow the law.


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