Energy & Environment

Trump administration ends five-year oil and gas drilling moratorium in California 


The Trump administration Friday announced it would make 725,000 acres of land in California’s central coast open to oil and gas lease sales, ending a five-year moratorium.

The decision by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made the federal land available for fossil fuel production across Fresno, Monterey, San Benito and other counties for the first time in half a decade.

{mosads}Soon, fossil fuel companies will be able to request and bid on plots within the hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands and mineral estates across 11 counties.

The BLM said the decision is in line with Trump’s May 2017 executive order for promoting U.S. energy independence.

The BLM estimates that oil and gas production on private and public lands would directly support nearly 3,000 jobs and establish $670 million in tax revenue. California will get 50 percent of the royalty fees incurred from the project.

The ruling authorizes oil and gas development in 14 areas across Monterey and San Benito counties. Those areas would be subjected to controlled surface use stipulations. The plan estimates that up to 32 new oil and gas development wells could be built on the federal lands during the plan’s lifetime.

No federal lease sales have occurred in California since 2013, when a court ruled BLM failed to consider the risks of fracking when it issued oil leases in Monterey and Fresno. The BLM has since conducted and filed new environmental impact studies on drilling in the area.

Environmental groups harshly criticized the administration’s decision and threatened to take legal action.

“This reckless move is the toxic convergence of Trump’s climate denial, loyalty to the oil industry and grudge against California,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Turning over these spectacular wild places to dirty drilling and fracking will sicken Californians, harm endangered species and fuel climate chaos. We’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

The BLM submitted the final plan to open up the acres in May.

BLM can take requests from fossil fuel companies for plots to lease starting 30 days from now, after the appeal period has ended. 

The Trump administration’s drilling plans run directly counter to California’s clean energy push, and the state’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) criticized it for having an emphasis on fossil fuel use.

“In California, we’re already well on our way to energy independence and we’re doing it in the smart way. This is 2019, not 1920. We don’t need to jeopardize our health or our environment to develop the energy sources we need,” Becerra said in a statement. 

California last fall committed to transitioning its electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy use by 2045. 

This story was updated.

Tags BLM Bureau of Land Management California Drilling Public land Xavier Becerra
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