Federal Government To Offer One Million Acres in California for Oil and Gas Development

Published May 27, 2019

The Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has offered a detailed plan to open more than a million acres of public and private land in California to oil and gas development, including through the use of fracking.

If BLM’s lease sale goes forward, it would end a five-year moratorium on leasing federal land in California for oil and gas development. In 2013, a federal judge halted oil lease sales being offered by the Obama administration in Monterey County, ruling the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued leases by failing to properly evaluate the environmental dangers of fracking. The BLM’s new plan came after the agency issued an environmental impact statement saying fracking could be undertaken without contributing to air or water pollution in the region.

1,000,000 Acres For Lease

BLM’s plan, part of President Donald Trump’s ongoing campaign to promote domestic energy production, was released on April 23. It would allow oil and gas leases on more than 400,000 acres of BLM land spread across parts of eastern Fresno, western Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura Counties in Central California. BLM’s plan would open another 600,000 acres of federal mineral rights across land owned by other entities where the land and mineral ownership is split with the BLM owning the underlying mineral rights, and private parties or other entities, like the U.S. Forest Service, owning the surface rights.

The Los Angeles Times reported trade groups, which praised the move, said environmentalists are stoking fears the Trump administration is opening National Parks or other pristine lands to development which isn’t true.

“We’re not talking about a national park,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies, told the Times. “These are lands that the Obama administration affirmed are appropriate for carefully controlled development.”

The public has 45 days to comment on the BLM’s oil and gas leasing proposal.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.