Thursday, September 29, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 31

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 10th, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 24 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 24

Lawsuit agreement suspends Bureau of Land Management's Central Coast oil and gas leasing

By Taylor O'Connor

Several California conservation groups and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management reached an agreement to suspend new oil and gas leasing across more than 1 million acres within the bureau’s Bakersfield Office—which encompasses Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Madera, Ventura, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare counties. 

The agreement came about after a 2020 lawsuit challenging the proposal because it didn’t comply with environmental law and didn’t look at impacts—particularly from fracking, said Los Padres ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper. 

This map—created by the Los Padres Forest Watch—dictates in red where there was open federal land, which the U.S. Bureau of Land Management could lease for oil drilling.

“All parties involved in the lawsuit—the bureau, state, and team of conservation organizations—came to an agreement that the bureau would go back and redo its [environmental] analysis and substantially add to it,” Kuyper said. “At the same time, they will also look at other parts of the management plan that will need to be updated as part of the environmental analysis. The hope is the bureau does a much more thorough job of analysis.” 

The proposal would’ve opened up 122,000 acres of land in Santa Barbara County, impacting areas like Lake Cachuma, the Sisquoc River, the San Rafael Wilderness, and Tepusquet Canyon along with thousands of acres in the city of Lompoc, Vandenberg Space Force Base and Allan Hancock College for drilling and fracking, he said. 

“The federal government holds high level to underground mineral rights, but someone else owns the city. The lands in the city of Lompoc are city-owned land, but the Bureau of Land Management owns the mineral rights underneath,” Kuyper explained. 

With this agreement in place, the bureau can’t yet open land up for future leasing, but there’s a possibility that it could reopen to fracking and drilling in the future. Kuyper said he hopes public lands will be taken off the table completely, and that the Biden administration fulfills its pledge to stop leasing land for development and fracking. 

“It will be up to the Bureau of Land Management ultimately to make the decision that is right for our communities and the environment, but for now this is a tremendous win for the Central Coast, and we look forward to participating in the process as it unfolds,” he said. 

Center for Biological Diversity Attorney Liz Jones told the Sun that the bureau needs to analyze the consequences for those living nearby is important prior to fracking—a process that is energy intensive, using hundreds of gallons of water to obtain oil. 

“We argued they didn’t look at those impacts with enough detail, and underestimat[ed] the amount of fracking that might happen if they were to move forward with the plan,” Jones said. 

The Bureau’s next step is to create a supplemental environmental analysis, and she added that the Center for Biological Diversity will be watching this unfold carefully to make sure it’s objective and thorough.

“[The analysis should] look at greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and habitat destructions. They are so significant they should not do leasing in the future, but we’ll see what the plan says,” Jones said. 

Jones said she would have to read the proposal before making any determination about suing the bureau in the future. 

“Given what we are experiencing now—with fire, floods, and droughts—that shows we can’t afford more extraction on public land. The Bureau of Land Management should think the same and acknowledge that,” she continued. 

The Bureau of Land Management declined to comment regarding the agreement.

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