The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to open 683,000 acres on federal lands in California to oil and natural gas drilling following a recent record of decision (ROD).
The ROD includes restrictions designed to limit impacts on natural resources and wildlife and could result in the first federal leases in California in six years. The decision, delayed by litigation for nearly a decade, amends the resource management plan by BLM’s Central Coast Office.
The state Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources does not expect the ROD to result in expanded hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the areas involved in the decision, said spokesman Don Drysdale.
"There have been no requests for fracking permits outside of the well established fields in western Kern County since regulations requiring permits were adopted in 2015," Drysdale said, and that’s not expected to change with the new lease opportunities.
Western States Petroleum Association President Catherine Reheis-Boyd called California an "energy island" at the western edge of the nation's pipeline and rail systems and said it was helpful for BLM to "carefully study" the resources available to the state whether they are ever developed or not.
"Every barrel produced responsibly in our state, under the toughest environmental standards in the world, is a barrel that we likely don’t have to import from foreign sources,” Reheis-Boyd said.
Litigation resulted in a 2013 federal court order that blocked leasing activity in the area. BLM agreed to reevaluate the potential impacts of drilling and to make adjustments to comply with National Environmental Policy Act stipulations.
The ROD would fulfill BLM's obligations to comply with the settlement terms for managing oil and gas leasing of federal minerals in 11 counties but primarily in Fresno, Monterey and San Benito.