Trump plans to open 1.2 million acres of public land to fracking as California expands oil drilling

By Dan Bacher |  

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – On Halloween, the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management announced a frightening new plan to open more than a million acres of public lands to oil and gas drilling on California’s Central Coast after ending of a five-year moratorium on leasing federal lands to fossil fuel companies in California.
The BLM’s Bakersfield Field Office Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released on October 31 analyzes the “potential effects” of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — associated with oil and gas development on new leases on public lands and Federal minerals.
The move takes place as two California Governors, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, have expanded oil and gas drilling in California. Governor Brown’s oil and gas regulators approved 21,000 new oil and gas wells, while Newsom’s regulators approved 2,365 new oil and gas well permits and 191 fracking permits from January 1 to June 3, 2019. 
In this photo taken on May 10, 2019, oil flows at a Chevron oil field in
Kern County, California's top oil-producing county.
Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and
Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response via AP.
The BLM is moving forward with the plan, first unveiled in draft form in April, to open drilling, including fracking, in eastern Fresno, western Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties, despite receiving thousands of objections from the public.  
In a press release, the Trump administration claimed, “This planning effort supports the decisions within the 2014 Bakersfield Field Office Resource Management Plan (RMP) and does not make any new public lands or Federal minerals available to oil and gas development." 
The BLM said the action “supports the Administration’s priority of promoting environmentally responsible energy development while creating jobs and providing economic opportunities for local communities guided by Executive Order 13783: Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth and Secretarial Order 3349: American Energy Independence.”
"The 2014 Bakersfield RMP and Record of Decision determined areas available for oil and gas development on approximately 1.2 million acres of federal minerals, including roughly 400,000 surface acres of BLM-managed public land. Approximately one million acres are available to oil and gas leasing with stipulations that would be applied to protect resources,” said the BLM.
“No new stipulations have been identified. No new leases are issued, and no permits to drill are approved with the finalization of this analysis. If proposed, new leases and/or requests for permits to drill and their potential impacts would be addressed at the site or project-specific level in a subsequent tiered environmental analysis,” according to the BLM. 
The agency held three public meetings and received approximately 16,000 comments during the Draft Supplemental EIS 45-day public comment period from April to June 2019.
Food and Water Watch: fracking and drilling is the ‘epitome of irresponsibility’
However, opponents of the Trump fracking expansion plan disagreed that promoting fracking and oil drilling on federal lands was “responsible energy development.” In response to release of the EIS, Food & Water Action Senior Central Coast Organizer Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino called expanding fracking and drilling “the epitome of irresponsibility.”
“At a time when the climate crisis demands that California move away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, it is the epitome of irresponsibility to expand fracking and drilling in our state. The climate-charged wildfires raging throughout California and the loss of life and billions in damages they create, demonstrate the profound urgency of the crisis,” Rizo-Centino said in a statement. “While, Trump and the BLM may be content to fiddle while Rome burns, the people of California are prepared to fight to protect our families and our communities from reckless, dangerous drilling.”
She also urged Trump to “counter Trump’s plans by halting all new drilling on state or private land in California to protect us from proposed oil and gas expansion in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and throughout the state.”
The BLM action follows the Trump administration’s recent decision to allow fracking on 725,500 acres across 11 counties in California’s Central Coast and Bay Area. Conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to challenge that decision.
Increased fracking will put asthmatics and other Central Valley residents at risk
Environmental justice and conservation group leaders slammed the Trump administration plans to expand fracking and drilling on federal lands in California.   
"As an asthmatic, I know firsthand what it is like to suffer from an asthma attack and have to live most of your young life on inhalers,” said Samuel Molina, California state director of Mi Familia Vota. “Fracking will release more dangerous air pollution and will continue to put the lives of our community members at risk. I do not want any more children to have to grow up using an inhaler like I did, all because oil companies just want to make a buck."
“The Central Valley already suffers from some of the worst air and water quality, and now Trump is giving away our public spaces to the oil and gas industry,” said Gustavo Aguirre Jr., Kern projects coordinator with Central California Environmental Justice Network. “Trump’s attack on our public lands is catastrophic for Central Valley air quality and community health. We need to protect our frontline communities from further toxic pollution.”
“In addition to regional air impacts from fine particles and ozone-forming gases released from fracking operations, toxic petrochemicals can create local impacts,” said Genevieve Gale, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition. “Diesel particulates, benzene, xylene, and other volatile hydrocarbons are known to cause cancer and harm the nervous, respiratory, and immune systems.”
Plan opponents point out that the area slated for drilling and fracking is near “spectacular public lands,” including state parks, national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. It’s also home to threatened and endangered animals, such as San Joaquin kit foxes and California condors.
Most of the land the BLM plans to open to oil drilling is in the San Joaquin Valley, a region that already has some of the county’s most severe air pollution, according to the American Lung Association.
“Expanding extraction of dirty fossil fuels on our public lands threatens the health of our communities and the future of our climate,” said Gary Lasky, legal chair of the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter in Fresno. “Drilling on our public lands already accounts for a significant portion of climate pollution in the United States, and this push from the Trump administration to open up even more lands for drilling is a huge step in the wrong direction.”
“This plan will degrade critical wildlife habitat, air quality, and parks and water resources that our communities depend on,” said Rebecca August, director of advocacy at Los Padres ForestWatch. “The entire process has been in the service of the Trump administration’s irresponsible pro-oil agenda. It’s sad to see such disregard for public health and the future of our public lands.”
You can review the Final Supplemental EIS online at
Trump plan released as CA regulators increase oil and gas drilling
The Trump plan to open 1.2 million acres of land to new oil drilling has been released as the Newsom Administration continues Governor Jerry Brown’s oil and gas drilling expansion in California.
As the Western States Petroleum Association dumped $4,126,703.38 into lobbying California legislators and regulators uring the first two quarters of the legislative session, the State’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) approved 2,365 new oil and gas well permits and 191 fracking permits from January 1 to June 3, 2019.
The data showed  that this year regulators increased number of permits granted for drilling new wells by 35.3%, well reworks by 28.3%, and fracturing  by 103.2%) as compared to the permitting rate during the final year of the Brown administration in 2018, according to Department of Conservation data released by Consumer Watchdog and the FracTracker Alliance.
Even more alarming, of the 2,365 well permits issued, 1064 or 45% of them benefitted oil companies invested in by DOGGR officials, the groups reported.  
A review of state financial conflict of disclosure forms also found that eight oil and gas regulators below were invested in the oil industry that they regulate,.
After the two groups exposed the expansion of oil and gas drilling and big conflicts of interests by senior DOGGR officials, Newsom fired Ken Harris, the head of DOGGR.
In September, Janet Wilson, reporter for the Desert Sun, found that California had issued no new fracking permits since late June, but that ‘enhanced recovery’ wells had increased by 60 percent this year and the regular and oil gas drilling permits had increased by 20 percent in 2019:
“California has issued no permits for fracking since late June, according to records reviewed by The Desert Sun and watchdog groups,” Wilson said.
“But permits for sometimes risky ‘enhanced recovery’ wells and related storage are up nearly 60% in 2019 so far under Gov. Gavin Newsom, compared to Gov. Jerry Brown’s last year in office. Regular oil and gas drilling permits are up 20%,” she said.
Not only are permits for enhanced recovery wells up 60% and regular oil and gas drilling up 20%  this year, but California officials have in fact proposed the deepening of reliance on fossil fuels in the state that directly opposes California’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045, according to a new report by Food and Watch Watch.
“The new report, California Leads: How to Break Fossil Fuel Dependence in the Golden Statedetails the web of fossil fuel infrastructure - including 298 gas-fired power plants and 100,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines - currently engulfing the state, and the alarming proposed expansion of this network,” according to the group. 
The Final Supplemental EIS for the Bakersfield RMP responds to a May 2017, court order to prepare additional environmental analysis of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing. In settlement of the litigation, the BLM agreed to not hold any new oil and gas lease sales within the Bakersfield Field Office decision area until the final analysis is completed and a decision is issued. The Record of Decision is anticipated to be released in fall 2019. 
The BLM has not issued a single new oil and gas lease in California since 2013, when a federal judge 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 a mixture of toxic chemicals and water into the ground to crack open oil-bearing rocks. According to the BLM, about 90 percent of new oil and gas wells on public lands are fracked,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
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 toxic chemicals, according to to CBD.
The BLM claimed that it had “incorporated” into the Final Supplemental EIS the “results of independent, comprehensive, peer-reviewed studies done by the California Council on Science and Technology and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on hydraulic fracturing and well stimulation in California, as well as the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department’s Environmental Impact Report on oil and gas permitting.”

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