Environmental groups trying to halt hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California have banded together to sue the Trump Administration. They claim the oil and gas extraction method harms climate, water, and wildlife, and could even trigger earthquakes.
The lawsuit, filed in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Jan. 14 stems from a Dec. 12 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision that leaves more than a million acres of public lands in California open to oil and gas extraction.
Meanwhile, the BLM argues that much of the public land targeted in the lawsuit was already open to oil and gas extraction for the last three decades.
“Trumps illegal, deeply unjust fracking plan would be a disaster for Central Valley communities, as well as our climate, wildlife, and water,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), in a media release issued Jan. 14. “We need to phase out fracking and oil drilling, not throw open our public lands to polluters. The future of our beautiful state and our children depends on it.”
CBD is joined in the suit by Earthjustice, which represents several other groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Los Padres ForestWatch, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club, Patagonia Works, and the Wilderness Society.
BLM spokesman Derrick Henry downplayed allegations made by the environmental groups in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.
“The BLMs supplemental analysis on hydraulic fracturing did not make any new public lands or federal minerals available to oil and gas development, nor did it issue any new leases or approve any permits to drill,” Henry said. “If proposed, those actions and the potential impacts would be addressed at the site or project-specific level in subsequent tiered environmental analysis.”
Under the BLM resource management plan, fracking would be approved on a case-by-case basis in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura counties, including some land near Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks and Carrizo Plain National Monument. These locations are within the jurisdiction of BLMs Bakersfield Field Office.
“Most of the acreage available within the Bakersfield Field Office jurisdiction for oil and gas development has been available for more than 30 years,” Henry said.
In response to an earlier lawsuit brought against the Trump Administration over the BLMs leasing policies in five different western states, Henry said the BLM has acted within its authority and bounds.
“The BLMs leasing decisions are lawful and fully compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act, despite the claims made in the lawsuit,” Henry said. “In fact, these leasing decisions were informed by public input, as required by law, which was considered before issuing a final decision. The BLM is helping America meet its growing energy needs while making sure the public lands remain in good shape, before and after leasing activities, consistent with its multiple-use mandate.”
Earthjustice was founded in 1971 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. It changed its name to Earthjustice in 1997 to reflect its role as a legal advocacy group for environmental justice activist groups. It is known for opposing many mining and logging initiatives and supporting “rewilding” efforts on public lands in the western United States.
“In the past two and a half years, Earthjustice has filed more than a hundred lawsuits to defend environmental and health protections,” the organizations website states. “Rulings on the merits of 39 of the lawsuits have now been decided. Earthjustice has won 33 of the battles—85 percent of the legal challenges decided thus far.”