Bonta announces federal halt to oil and gas drilling in central California

New oil and gas leasing in central California will be prohibited until the U.S. Bureau of Land Management conducts a more thorough review of the impact of drilling in the region under a settlement agreement announced Monday.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a federal moratorium on new oil and gas drilling in central California Monday that will remain in effect until the Bureau conducts a supplemental environmental review of a Trump-era plan to make more than one million acres of land available for oil and gas leasing and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), according to the attorney general’s office.

Bonta, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state agencies filed a lawsuit in January 2020 alleging that the BLM’s previous environmental reviews of the plan “did not take a hard look” at the impacts fracking could have on the environment and community health in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura Counties.

Thus, until the Bureau conducts a supplemental environmental review of the project, new oil and gas leases will not be granted in central California under the terms of the settlement.

“Fracking is dangerous for our communities, damaging to our environment, and out of step with California's climate goals,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The Trump Administration recklessly opened Central California up to new oil and gas drilling without considering how fracking can hurt communities by causing polluted groundwater, toxic air emissions, minor earthquakes, climate impacts, and more. In keeping with the Bureau of Land Management's mission to preserve the health of our public lands, it must reassess this Trump-Era mistake.”

The Bureau of Land Management declined to comment on the settlement agreement.

The decision comes as the state is on a path to phase out oil extraction by no later than 2045, a goal announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom in April 2021. Newsom also directed the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management, CalGEM, last April to end the issuance of fracking permits by 2024.

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