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Trump officials open door to fracking in California
The Trump administration is starting the process of opening up large swaths of land in California to hydraulic fracturing.
In a notice issued Wednesday to the Federal Register, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it intends to analyze the impact of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, on publicly owned land throughout the state.
The area in question spans 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estates throughout a number of California counties including Fresno, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
The notice of intent says BLM will begin the scoping process for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which will determine the effects of fracking on the environment. Fracking is a technology used to release oil and gas from land. The administration's intent is to eventually open up public land to new lease sales.
The announcement follows a 2017 lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. That lawsuit challenged a 2015 attempt by the federal government to finalize a resource management plan that acknowledged fracking. In its settlement, BLM promised that it would first provide an environmental impact statement before considering fracking.
The agency's notice of intent to conduct an environmental impact statement is open for public comment.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on multiple occasions has highlighted an interest in expanding drilling on public land to generate funds from lease sales.
Clare Lakewood, an attorney for the Center of Biological Diversity, said her organization will be waiting to see how the administration justifies fracking in their analysis.
"You can't justify drilling for fossil fuels anymore, there is no way to come out with an environmental analysis and find out this is OK," she said.
Lakewood said the timing on the notice of intent was also particularly striking. At the end of July, the administration announced it would be weakening Obama-era standards on vehicle emissions standards, a move that would take away California's ability to set its own heightened regulations.
"It's a coordinated attack on California by the Trump administration," Lakewood said.
Recently, President Trump has criticized the Golden State over environmental standards he has deemed too strict. This week, he sent a series of tweets blaming the state's policies on water and logging for the number of wildfires raging within its borders.
The Interior Department did not respond to a request for comment.