BLM Agrees to Halt Oil Drilling and Fracking Across 1M Acres in Central California

On Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity, alongside Friends of the Earth, and the Sierra Club, announced an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to suspend new oil and gas leasing across more than one million acres of California’s central coast and valley.

The settlement agreement is set to safeguard not only the public land, but also halts the sale of 4,134 acres of land in California’s Kern County that was slated for oil drilling. The agreement comes after the plaintiffs filed a complaint in 2020 that claimed the government’s sale agreement “did not take a hard look at the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the lease sale on groundwater, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and the climate.”

Thousands of citizens stood alongside the plaintiffs to protest the land leasing for fracking, as they believed it would worsen climate change and the air quality in the region. The plaintiffs also argued that fracking would “disproportionately harm” regional residents, the majority of whom are Latinx and nearly 20% of whom live below the poverty line. 

Center for Biological Diversity attorney Liz Jones commented, “For decades this region’s people and wildlife have been paying the price of filthy fossil fuel extraction. That has to end, and we’ll do everything possible to make sure these pauses become permanent bans.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Earthjustice. The BLM is represented by attorneys with the Department of Justice.