Attorney General Becerra Denounces Misguided BLM Proposal to Open Central California to Fracking for Oil and Gas
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a comment letter opposing a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan to open up more than one million acres of public lands in Central California to oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The comment letter responds to BLM’s deficient draft supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS), which fails to fully evaluate the project’s impact on the communities and environment of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura Counties. In the letter, Attorney General Becerra asserts that BLM’s draft supplemental EIS disregards important impacts to the communities, relies on incorrect assumptions, ignores alternative options, and is otherwise unlawful.
“California won’t stand idly by while the Trump Administration pushes forward a project that endangers our communities and natural resources,” said Attorney General Becerra. “While President Trump might value a quick buck over the health and safety of the American people, that’s not how we do things in California. This unlawful half-baked proposal would hurt millions of Californians – we will fight to make sure it doesn’t move forward.”
On April 26, 2019, BLM issued a draft supplemental EIS evaluating its plan to open 1.01 million acres of federal lands to oil and gas leasing. Fracking is a procedure in which oil and gas producers inject water, sand, and certain chemicals at high pressure into tight rock formations to extract oil and gas. While most of the fluid is water, the process also includes toxic chemicals that pollute nearby groundwater and flow back to the surface for above-ground storage.
A growing body of evidence points to fracking as a significant cause of water and air pollution and low-level seismic events. BLM’s draft supplemental EIS fails to adequately consider this evidence and contradicts recent studies identifying substantial risks of fracking. BLM also improperly assumes that only four wells per year will utilize fracking, grossly distorting its consideration of environmental impacts.
Attorney General Becerra’s comment letter asserts that the BLM’s plan:
- Fails to carefully address the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of its proposed action and relies upon incorrect assumptions regarding the frequency of fracking on public lands;
- Ignores the impacts and danger to millions of people living near the oil and gas wells. Seven of the eight counties in the planning area do not meet air quality standards for particulate matter, ozone, or both;
- Disregards alternatives that could reduce the impacts of fracking, including closing off areas near disadvantaged communities, ecologically sensitive areas, and areas with low or no potential for oil and gas development;
- Fails to consider the conflicts of the proposed action with state policies, as required by NEPA. California has a statutory target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and a plan to reduce petroleum consumption by 45 percent by 2030 to meet this target.
Attorney General Becerra stands strong in protecting Californians from the dangers of fracking. In January 2018, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against BLM over its decision to repeal the 2015 Fracking Rule, which governs the fracking of oil and gas wells on federal and Native American Tribal lands nationwide.
A copy of the filed comments is available here.