SOURCE: Courthouse News Service

DATE: October 4, 2019

SNIP: The Trump administration opened about 720,000 acres of land for oil and gas development in California’s Central Coast as the administration pursues its energy agenda despite local opposition.

The Resource Management Plan Amendment approved by the Bureau of Land Management means 14 oil and gas leases dormant for the past five years will once again be open to bids from natural resource extraction companies.

Serena Baker, spokeswoman for the BLM, said that while the plan allows the companies to bid on the leases they would still have to perform site-specific environmental analysis before putting a spade in the ground.

“Most of the development is expected in or near already existing oil and gas fields presently around Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties,” Baker said.

Voters in two of those counties – Monterey and San Benito – recently passed ballot initiatives banning the practice of fracking in their jurisdiction.

The BLM maintains such ordinances only apply to lands within local jurisdiction and federal lands are governed by federal law.

Even so, Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the BLM typically complies with local laws regarding energy policy and other land use matters.

“Whether they continue to do so remains to be seen. This administration has been aggressively targeting California,” she said.

In late September, the U.S. Geological Survey released a study showing oil and gas development in Kern County has contaminated underground water sources. Water samples in the Lost Hills and Fruitvale areas of Kern County in California’s Central Valley were found to contain benzene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Benzene is a known cancer-causing agent.