Trump plan for new frack­ing on Calif. coast moves ahead

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY EMILY CADEI AND MON­ICA VAUGHAN [email protected]­clatchydc.com [email protected]­bune­news.com

WASH­ING­TON

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion moved for­ward Thurs­day with its plan to open up fed­eral land in Cal­i­for­nia’s Cen­tral Val­ley and Cen­tral Coast to more oil and gas drilling, in­clud­ing frack­ing.

The Bureau of Land Man­age­ment Cen­tral Coast Of­fice re­leased new doc­u­ments on its pro­posal for oil and gas leas­ing and de­vel­op­ment on the pub­lic land it ad­min­is­ters. The field of­fice’s bound­aries stretch across 11 Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties: Alameda, Con­tra Costa, Fresno, Merced, Mon­terey, San Ben­ito, San Joaquin, San Ma­teo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanis­laus.

The Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity, an en­vi­ron­men­tal group that op­poses the plan, es­ti­mates that the pro­posal could open up roughly 725,000 acres of fed­er­ally man­aged land and sub­sur­face min­eral es­tate to oil and gas leas­ing.

“From Mon­terey to the Bay Area, the pres­i­dent wants to let oil com­pa­nies drill and spill their way across our beloved pub­lic lands and wildlife habi­tat,” Clare Lake­wood, a se­nior at­tor­ney at the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity, said in a state­ment. “As we fight cli­mate chaos, there’s no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for any new drilling and frack­ing, let alone this out­ra­geous assault on our pris­tine wild places.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sists it is abid­ing by the the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Act of 1969 and the Fed­eral Land Pol­icy and Man­age­ment Act of 1976 as it pro­motes re­spon­si­ble energy ex­plo­ration.

The agency’s plan could re­sult in up to 37 new oil and gas wells drilling on new land leases over the next 20 years, pri­mar­ily in Fresno, Mon­terey and San Ben­ito coun­ties, ac­cord­ing to the BLM’s pre­ferred plan. BLM es­ti­mates that the oil and gas in­dus­try di­rectly sup­ports 3,000 jobs and $623 mil­lion in tax rev­enue within those coun­ties.

A sep­a­rate Bureau of Land Man­age­ment of­fice in Bak­ers­field al­ready re­leased a sup­ple­men­tal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment last month that con­sid­ers new oil and gas de­vel­op­ment on 1.6 mil­lion acres of

pub­lic land across an­other re­gion of Cal­i­for­nia, which in­cludes Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Bar­bara, Tu­lare and Ven­tura coun­ties. The plan­ning area in­cludes about 400,000 acres of pub­lic land and 1.2 mil­lion acres of fed­eral min­eral es­tate, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

That plan calls for the use of hy­draulic frac­tur­ing on 40 new wells over the next 10 years. The ex­trac­tion method is cur­rently pri­mar­ily used in Cal­i­for­nia to en­hance oil pro­duc­tion in the San Joaquin Val­ley, home to some of the largest pro­duc­ing oil fields in the coun­try.

The bureau has not is­sued any frack­ing leases since a 2013 court rul­ing that the agency had vi­o­lated the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Act with­out first con­sid­er­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of the prac­tice.

The West­ern States Petroleum As­so­ci­a­tion, an in­dus­try lob­by­ing group, lauded the agency’s plan and said the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view proves that frack­ing is safe.

“We’re pleased that after five years, the process worked and the fed­eral govern­ment has reaf­firmed that hy­draulic frac­tur­ing is a safe method of pro­duc­tion in Cal­i­for­nia,” said spokesper­son Kara Greene. “We look for­ward to be­ing part of the dis­cus­sions to en­sure we con­tinue to safely pro­duce af­ford­able re­li­able energy to Cal­i­for­nia con­sumers while meet­ing the pol­icy needs of the state.”

While Cal­i­for­nia re­mains one of the largest oil pro­duc­ing states in the na­tion, pro­duc­tion has steadily de­clined over the last three decades.

Thou­sands of Cal­i­for­ni­ans sub­mit­ted com­ments to the agency in protest of the plan to open more land for drilling and frack­ing. Among the con­cerns are in­creased air pol­lu­tion and po­ten­tial con­tam­i­na­tion of ground­wa­ter, a limited re­source in Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia.

Rep. Salud Car­ba­jal, D-Santa Bar­bara, also crit­i­cized the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posal to ex­pand drilling. He called it a “step back­ward” in the con­text of ef­forts to limit the po­ten­tial harm of cli­mate change by re­duc­ing con­sump­tion of fos­sil fu­els.

“The Cen­tral Coast is al­ready fac­ing grave im­pacts from cli­mate change, in­clud­ing ris­ing sea lev­els, drought, and a nearly year-round fire sea­son,” Car­ba­jal said in a state­ment. “The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to open pub­lic lands to frack­ing and oil de­vel­op­ment is a step back­ward given the in­creas­ingly ur­gent warn­ings from our sci­en­tific com­mu­nity on the unchecked ef­fects of cli­mate change.”

The Fed­eral Reg­is­ter no­tice pub­lished Thurs­day an­nounced the re­lease of a Re­source Man­age­ment Plan (RMP) amend­ment and Fi­nal En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact State­ment (EIS). Peo­ple will have 30 days to protest the plan after its is pub­lished, the no­tice says.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP dmid­dle­[email protected]­bune­news.com

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan may mean up to 37 new oil and gas wells drilling on new land leases over 20 years.

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