Los Padres ForestWatch has joined several other conservation groups who have sued the Trump administration to challenge the last step in the administration’s plan to allow oil drilling and fracking on more than 1 million acres of public lands and minerals in Central California.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claims the Bureau of Land Management violated federal law by failing to consider fracking’s potential harm to public health and recreation in the region, as well as harm to the climate and possible groundwater and air pollution. The suit also notes the potential for oil-industry-induced earthquakes.
The bureau’s plan would allow drilling and fracking on public lands across eight counties, including Santa Barbara, Frenso, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Tulare and Ventura.
“This reckless plan threatens the iconic landscapes that define central California, endangering our communities and moving us further away from a clean energy future,” Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch, said in a statement. “Our action today seeks to uphold our nation’s environmental protection laws while securing a safe and healthy future for our region’s public lands.”
The areas targeted for drilling or fracking are near public lands, including state parks and beaches, national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, the Pacific Crest Trail and Carrizo Plain National Monument. The lands are home to threatened and endangered animals, including San Joaquin kit foxes and California condors.
“California’s Central Valley already suffers from some of the worst air and water quality in the state, and the decision allowing leases for oil extraction in public lands would be catastrophic for our region and especially for the health of our communities,” Nayamin Martinez, director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said in a statement. “For years CCEJN staff has monitored emissions from oil and gas facilities and has documented that residents living near pumpjacks and storage tanks are constantly exposed to benzene and other VOCs that are carcinogenic. We need to protect our communities from further toxic pollution, not increase their exposure.”
The Bureau of Land Management has not held an oil and gas lease sale in California since 2012, 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.
“Throughout this planning process, the Trump administration has ignored our warnings about the long-term impacts to nearby communities and national parks, in favor of short-term gains for oil and gas developers,” Mark Rose, Sierra Nevada program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement. “This plan could allow drilling near several of our most cherished public lands, like Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, which already suffer from some of the worst air quality of any park units in the country.”
In November 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced a moratorium on new high-pressured steam injection wells and scientific reviews of all current fracking permit applications. The lawsuit filed Tuesday added to other recent legal challenges to the federal oil and gas leasing program over alleged damage caused to the climate.
“At a time when we need to be taking urgent action to address the climate crisis, the Trump administration’s attempts to expand fossil fuel extraction on our public lands represent a huge step in the wrong direction,” Gary Lasky, chair of the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter in Fresno, said in a statement. “This reckless plan is a threat to our public lands, our health and our climate, and we will not allow it to go unchallenged.”