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Following the end of a five-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling in public land in California, the Bureau of Land Management could open up 1.6 million acres in the state to oil and gas drilling, the Sacramento Bee reports, adding that environmentalists, which immediately condemned the possibility, were particularly worried about fracking.
The federal government controls some 15 million acres of public land in California. The BLM said it was considering plots in Fresno, San Luis Obispo, and another six counties in the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast to offer oil and gas leases.
The Center for Biological Diversity, an outspoken opponent of fracking, three years ago won a legal case against the BLM saying it did not adequately assess the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing on air quality, water, and wildlife.
Now, the BLM has issued a request for comments on the potential adverse effects of opening up 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate for oil and gas drilling.
According to a CBD-affiliated attorney, Greg Loarie, “analyzing the impacts of fracking is like analyzing the impacts of smoking cigarettes: there’s really no question that more fracking would be terrible for California.”
The other camp, represented by the Western States Petroleum Association, welcomed the BLM’s move noting that more local production will reduce the state’s dependence on imported crude. Research from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the process of fracking itself does not increase the risk of earthquakes, but the wastewater reservoirs dug into the ground do increase the risk.
Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown is being pressured to put an end to all oil and gas production in the state. Last month, more than two dozen climate scientists wrote to Brown urging him to ban oil and gas drilling in California, otherwise the state would never be able to achieve its share of the Paris Agreement goals.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.