Environmentalists, California Prepare to Obstruct New Fracking Rules

BY CHUCK MCFADDEN POSTED 05.20.2019 Capitol Weekley

Once again, the stage is being set for a multi-pronged battle in California between environmentalists and the Trump administration.

On May 9, the federal government announced plans to open 725,500 acres of public lands on California’s Central Coast and the Bay Area to new oil and gas drilling. Specifically, the plan potentially involves drilling in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus.

Earlier, on April 25, the Trump administration had released its draft proposal to reopen more than a million acres of public land to drilling in much the same area — Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.

The plans, if put into effect, would end a five-year-old moratorium on leasing federal public land in California to oil companies. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not held a drilling lease sale in California since 2013, when a judge ruled that the agency violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey and Fresno Counties without considering the risks of hydraulic fracturing, widely known as fracking.

A new environmental report from the Department of the Interior meets the judge’s requirement for another look at fracking, removing one hurdle to resuming drilling.

Fracking frees oils and natural gas from dense rock formations by pumping water, sand and chemical additives into the ground. Fracking started in the 1940’s, and since then, over 1 million wells have been drilled using fracking.

Supporters of the process say fracking poses no threat to the environment, and note that fracking has created millions of jobs in the US. They also contend that fracking has been reducing greenhouse gases over the years.

But environmentalists and their allies — including the state of California — say fracking could poison ground water, pollute surface water, damage natural landscapes and threaten wildlife. Fracking uses large amounts of water — millions of gallons of water are used for each well drilled using fracking. Early last year, the state sued the Trump administration over the federal government’s efforts to loosen fracking restrictions.