Trump administration plans to open more of California public land to oil drilling, fracking

“Expanding extraction of dirty fossil fuels on our public lands threatens the health of our communities and the future of our climate.”

Image Credit: Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield Field Office

A proposal to open more than 1 million acres of central California to oil drilling and fracking was proposed by the Trump administration, which would end a more than five-year moratorium on leasing the state’s federal land. In a statement from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the proposal would allow oil companies to extract fossil fuel on public lands across eight counties.

These counties include Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura, according to a press release.

“Trump’s plan to hand over a million acres in California to the oil industry is a despicable attack on our state’s future,” Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “Sacrificing these public lands to dirty drilling and fracking will worsen the climate crisis and expose California’s people and wildlife to toxic pollution. We’ll do everything possible to stop this.”

According to the press release, the BLM’s proposal comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s decision to allow fracking on 725,500 acres in California’s Central Coast and Bay Area. The new proposal now opens most of the land to oil drilling and fracking in the San Joaquin Valley, which is already noted to have severe air pollution.

“In addition to regional air impacts from fine particles and ozone-forming gases released from fracking operations, toxic petrochemicals can create local impacts,” Genevieve Gale, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, said. “Diesel particulates, benzene, xylene, and other volatile hydrocarbons are known to cause cancer and harm the nervous, respiratory, and immune systems.”

A suit was filed against the Trump administration’s new proposal in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco last week by conservation groups.

Not only is air quality at risk, water quality will also be impacted, conservation groups declared. According to a 2015 report from the California Council on Science and Technology “fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, dangerously close to underground drinking-water supplies, with unusually high concentrations of toxic chemicals,” a press release stated.

And wildlife is also said to be threatened by the Trump administration’s proposal. The area open to drilling and fracking is close to state parks, national parks and forests “which will degrade critical wildlife habitat,” Rebecca August, director of advocacy at Los Padres ForestWatch, said. These areas are specifically home to many threatened and endangered animals.

“This plan will degrade critical wildlife habitat, air quality, and parks and water resources that our communities depend on,” August said. “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.”

The Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization, is calling the new proposal “a huge step in the wrong direction.”

“Expanding extraction of dirty fossil fuels on our public lands threatens the health of our communities and the future of our climate,” Gary Lasky, legal chair of the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter in Fresno, said. “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.”


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