The Trump administration on Thursday moved forward with a controversial plan to open up more than half a million acres of federal land in Central California to oil and natural gas drilling.
The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a final proposal to open for lease sales 725,500 acres across 11 California counties along the coast.
The proposed Resource Management Plan Amendment and final environmental impact statement estimated that up to 32 development wells could be built on the federal lands over the project’s lifetime.
The plan would replace a drilling proposal issued in 2017 by the Obama administration. The updated proposal increases the land available by nearly 327,000 acres. Under BLM’s preferred plan, the proposal would apply “the least restrictions necessary to develop federal minerals within existing oil and gas fields where the vast majority of oil and gas production is projected to occur.”
Last month BLM proposed reopening 400,000 acres of California public land it oversees and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral subsurface acreage it manages, to unconventional drilling in several California counties. A final proposal is expected later this year.
It has insisted that the drilling will take place without harming other uses of land in California.
The public was given a month to file a protest. Gov. Gavin Newsom also has a 60-day window to review the proposal.
The Western States Petroleum Association praised the BLM action, which it said "reaffirmed that hydraulic fracturing is a safe method of production in California," said spokesperson Kara Greene. The associations wants to be "part of the discussions to ensure we continue to safely produce affordable, reliable energy."