The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] – Volume 23, Number 24
Lawsuit agreement suspends Central Coast oil and gas lease from Bureau of Land Management
By Taylor O’Connor
Several California conservation groups and the US Bureau of Land Management have come to a OK to suspend new oil and gas leases on more than one million acres within the Bakersfield office, which encompasses Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Madera, Ventura, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties.
The deal came after a lawsuit in 2020 challenging the proposal because it was not in compliance with environmental law and did not examine the impacts, especially of fracking, said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch.
“All parties involved in the lawsuit – the bureau, the state, and the team of conservation organizations – reached an agreement that the bureau would go back and redo its [environmental] analysis and add to it significantly,” Kuyper said. “At the same time, they will also review other parts of the management plan that will need to be updated as part of the environmental scan. The hope is that the bureau will do much more in-depth analytical work.
The proposal would have opened 122,000 acres of land in Santa Barbara County, impacting areas like Lake Cachuma, the Sisquoc River, the San Rafael Wilderness and the Tepusquet Canyon, as well as thousands of acres in the city of Lompoc, the Space Force Base from Vandenberg and Allan Hancock College for drilling and fracking, he said.
“The federal government owns high-level underground mining rights, but someone else owns the town. The land in the town of Lompoc is owned by the town, but the Bureau of Land Management owns the mineral rights underneath,” Kuyper explained.
With this agreement in place, the office cannot yet open land for future leasing, but it is possible that it could reopen to fracking and drilling in the future. Kuyper said he hopes public land will be taken off the table completely and the Biden administration will keep its promise to stop leasing land for development and fracking.
“It will be up to the Bureau of Land Management to ultimately make the decision that is right for our communities and the environment, but right now this is a huge win for the Central Coast, and we look forward to being part of it. to the process as it unfolds,” he said.
Center for Biological Diversity Attorney Liz Jones told the Sun that the office should analyze the consequences for people living nearby is important before fracking, an energy-intensive process, using hundreds of gallons of water to obtain oil.
“We argued that they had not looked at these impacts in sufficient detail and were underestimating[ed] the amount of fracking that could occur if they were to go ahead with the plan,” Jones said.
The Office’s next step is to create additional environmental analysis, and she added that the Center for Biological Diversity will carefully monitor this process to ensure it is objective and thorough.
“[The analysis should] look at greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and habitat destruction. They’re so big that they shouldn’t be hiring in the future, but we’ll see what the plan says,” Jones said.
Jones said she should read the proposal before making a decision on whether to sue the office in the future.
“Given what we are currently experiencing, with fires, floods and droughts, it shows that we cannot afford to increase extraction on public lands. The Bureau of Land Management should think the same and recognize it,” she continued.
The Bureau of Land Management declined to comment on the deal.