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Trump Administration Proposes First Oil Lease Sale in California in Eight Years

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WASHINGTON— The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it intends to hold the first federal oil and gas lease sale in California since 2012.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to auction seven parcels totaling more than 4,000 acres of public land and mineral estate in Kern County, potentially adding to air emissions in a region that already has some of the worst air pollution in the country. Drilling could occur near the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

“It’s breathtakingly vicious for the Trump administration to expand drilling and fracking while California battles historic wildfires driven by climate change,” said Clare Lakewood, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “More oil wells mean more greenhouse gases, more air pollution and more destroyed habitat. Selling this public land to oil companies will do significant harm to our environment, despite the administration’s ridiculous claims. We’ve blocked any new federal leasing in California in court for eight years now, and we’ll fight this too.”

Some of these public lands are located within the Lokern-Buena Vista Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Other parcels are close to the boundaries of the Carrizo Plain National Monument and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The Bureau acknowledges that endangered species including the San Joaquin kit fox, California condor, giant kangaroo rat and California jewelflower may be affected by oil drilling on the parcels for sale.

Two successful lawsuits brought by the Center have resulted in no new lease sales in California since 2012.

The Trump administration faces several ongoing lawsuits over its efforts to increase drilling and fracking in California.

In December 2019 the administration made a final decision to allow oil drilling and fracking across more than 1 million acres of federal public land and mineral estate in eight counties across California’s Central Valley and Central Coast: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura. Conservation groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to challenge that decision.

This followed its decision in October 2019 to allow drilling and fracking on an additional 725,500 acres across 11 counties in the Central Coast and Bay Area. Conservation groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to challenge that decision.

Fracking is an extreme oil-extraction process that blasts a mixture of toxic chemicals and water into the ground to crack open oil-bearing rocks. According to the Bureau, about 90% of new oil and gas wells on public lands are fracked.

A 2015 report from the California Council on Science and Technology concluded that fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, dangerously close to underground drinking-water supplies, with unusually high concentrations of toxic chemicals.

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