Yet Another Lawsuit Seeking to Limit California Oil Development

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The clamor over hydraulic fracturing continued Wednesday as environmental activists filed another lawsuit to limit oil and gas development in California.  The lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres ForestWatch, challenges a plan to open portions of federal land in California to oil and gas operations.

The groups claim that the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) did not consider the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing when it approved a Resource Management Plan, which could potentially open a large area of federal land in the state’s most oil-rich regions to leasing.  The plan found that “overall, in California, for industry practice of today, the direct environmental impacts of well stimulation practice appear to be relatively limited.”

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued oil leases in Monterey and Fresno counties without considering the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing.  This ruling has led to a de facto moratorium on new leasing in California on federal lands.

If the current Resource Management Plan goes forward, the BLM has estimated that it will lead to the drilling of between 100 and 400 new wells in the area over the next 10 years.

According to Patrick Sullivan with the Center for Biological Diversity, the BLM environmental assessment was inadequate.  “We think the federal government needs to go back to the drawing board and take a really hard look at fracking pollution threats to water, air and public health,” he said.

This lawsuit comes on the heels of a multi-year study done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which found that hydraulic fracturing posed no “widespread, systemic” threat to drinking water.  The BLM is currently in the process of revising the rules that regulate hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on public and Indian trust lands.

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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