CFROG was dismayed to learn of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) recent proposal to further open public lands in Central California to fracking and other oil and gas development. More than 1.2 million acres of federal land, including areas that the federal government just owns the below-surface mineral rights to, could be leased to oil companies.

This plan ends a 2013 moratorium enacted when a federal judge ruled that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing oil leases in Monterey County without considering fracking’s environmental dangers. And many of the proposed leases are near pristine wilderness areas like Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks. 

According to a map produced by Los Padres ForestWatch, the proposal covers many areas in Ventura County including a land preserve behind the Thacher School in Ojai, another small area near the Ojai Valley Inn, large areas near the Hopper Mountain wildlife refuge above Fillmore, land on Red Mountain above Lake Casitas, areas near Canada Larga, a parcel above the Rincon, land above Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park in Moorpark and both Naval bases.

The mineral rights issue is particularly problematic because it gives the BLM the right to lease land on private property to oil companies because it owns the subsurface rights.

Environmental groups and officials and agencies in California have filed lawsuits to stop the plan citing lack of consideration for public health and environmental degradation.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has protested the decision. His 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.

CFROG will continue to monitor this proposal, protest under every means possible and provide updates as they become available.