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    The Road to Tyranny by Don Jans

    Trump Administration OKs New Drilling/Fracking on 1 Million across Central California – Includes 28,000 Acres in Ventura County

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    The Trump administration finalized a study on the environmental and public health impacts of fracking, the last step in completing a Resource Management Plan that opens more than one million acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of central California to new oil drilling and fracking. The action ends a 5-year moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands in California.

    The study, which includes eight Central California counties from San Luis Obispo County in the North to Ventura County in the south, and from the coast inland to the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, was fast-tracked by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to adhere to an executive order issued by the Trump administration. It found that fracking poses no significant impacts and recommended no changes to the plan that allows drilling and fracking on federal lands including in and adjacent to national forests, parks and monuments; state, county and city parks and beaches; state and federal wildlife refuges and ecological reserves; important waterways like rivers and reservoirs; school campuses; segments of the Pacific Crest Trail; and other areas especially sensitive to environmental and health impacts.

    Click here for an interactive map showing the lands now open for leasing. A summary of key areas is attached.

    “If the BLM didn’t find impacts from oil drilling and fracking next to schools, under rivers and reservoirs, and in habitat that harbors endangered animals, it’s because they didn’t look,” said ForestWatch executive director Jeff Kuyper. “The BLM has wasted taxpayers’ money and will cause irreparable damage with this sham study that places our treasured landscapes and communities at great risk.”

    Nearly one-hundred thousand area residents submitted letters and hundreds attended public meetings expressing concern over water and air pollution, public health and climate impacts, and damage to protected wildlife habitat and sensitive species. The BLM refused to consider most public input by rejecting what it considered form letters, verbal testimony, and comments that did not provide what it termed “substantive” information.

    Cities, counties, Native American tribes and organizations, NGOs, the US Navy, and elected officials were among those who sent letters opposing the plan which would allow oil companies to lease federally controlled mineral rights for oil development for as little as $2 an acre. The cities of Ojai and San Luis Obispo, and the County of Santa Barbara, all passed resolutions opposing the administration’s plan to allow oil drilling and fracking that would threaten public resources and current land use. Once the federal leases are purchased, the agencies will have little authority over how the lands are developed and whether impacts are mitigated.

    “Every step of the way, the Trump administration declined to do its job to put public health and the safety of the environment before corporate interests,” said ForestWatch advocacy director Rebecca August. “It’s sad to see such disregard for the future of our public lands and the communities that depend on them.”

    Due to a technicality invoked by the Trump administration, there is no formal appeal or public review process for the BLM’s decision. ForestWatch is working with its partners to evaluate next steps. The matter could end up back in federal court; a judge ordered the BLM study in response to a 2016 lawsuit brought by ForestWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity. 


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