BLM Fails to Review Fracking Impacts of Oil & Gas Leases in California

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The U.S. District Court in San Jose recently found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to adequately review the environmental impacts of fracking on four oil and gas leases it recently auctioned off in the Monterey Shale area of Monterey and Fresno counties in California. As a result, all work on the wells has stopped until the environmental impacts can be assessed.

To read the full decision, please click here.

Fracking, a technique used since the 1940s, involves creating fractures in rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to allow more oil and gas to flow into the wellbore, where it can then be extracted. This process can make an otherwise uneconomic well viable. Fracking has been met with controversy in many areas of the country, including New York where a ban on fracking has been attempted.

The court held that BLM “violated NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) in its environmental assessment of the leases by unreasonably relying on an earlier single-well development scenario” because the BLM did not consider the environment effects of fracking. The judge did not go as far as plaintiffs Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club wanted, finding that the leases did not violate the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.

It seems likely that if the BLM or the leasees deem the leases to be worth conducting an environmental impact report, that the fracking will be able to commence. That is sure to bring the activists back out to protest as they did last December when the leases were first auctioned off.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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