The Trump Administration moved to allow fracking and drilling on 1.2 million acres of public lands in California, despite renewed outcry from environmental activists who sued the administration over a different fracking proposal earlier this week.
On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that it had completed a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for new leases in California and announced that the lands would be opened for extraction activities.
The plan, which was first proposed in April, will allow extraction activities in the state’s Central Valley and along the Central Coast and permit extraction activities near the Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
The proposal would end a five-year moratorium on leasing California’s federal public land to oil companies, which was implemented in 2013, when a judge said that the BLM had not adequately considered risks before issuing leases.
Activists said that the proposed fracking would endanger people and wildlife and contribute to the climate crisis.
“Expanding extraction of dirty fossil fuels on our public lands threatens the health of our communities and the future of our climate,” Gary Lasky, legal chair of the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter in Fresno, said in a Sierra Club post about the BLM‘s decision. “Drilling on our public lands already accounts for a significant portion of climate pollution in the United States, and this push from the Trump administration to open up even more lands for drilling is a huge step in the wrong direction.”
The plan “supports the balance between resource conservation, responsible energy development and economic opportunities consistent with the BLM‘s multiple use mission,” Gabe Garcia, BLM Bakersfield Field Manager, told Newsweek in a statement.
Trump has rolled back a range of environmental regulations since taking office, and his attempt to expand fracking aligns with his efforts to bolster the fossil fuel industry and achieve energy independence. The administration issued three times as many acres of federally controlled oil and gas parcels for lease in Fiscal Year 2018 than the average amount leased each year under Barack Obama, according to The New York Times.
The 45th president’s energy policies have faced fierce backlash from environmental groups, and controversy over his fracking plan emerged earlier this week. On Wednesday, the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity sued the Bureau of Land Management over the Trump administration’s October proposal to open 720,000 of federal land to oil and gas developers.
California officials have also fought against the president’s efforts to permit more fracking in their state. The state, which has regularly clashed with Trump over environmental policy, filed a 2018 lawsuit seeking to force the Trump administration to reinstate an Obama-era fracking rule requiring companies to disclose the chemicals used while fracking. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the Interior’s deregulation move “federal overreach.”
In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom passed a law to stop state lands from being used in new extraction activities.
Becerra previously criticized the BLM plan approved Friday, saying it “disregards important impacts to the communities, relies on incorrect assumptions, ignores alternative options, and is otherwise unlawful.”