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For Immediate Release, December 8, 2011


Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x302
Jason Pitt, Sierra Club, (202) 675-6272

Suit Filed to Protect California Watersheds From Dangerous Fracking

Drilling Set to Begin Without Proper Environmental Review

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit today challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s leasing of more than 2,500 acres of environmentally sensitive land in Monterey and Fresno counties for oil and gas development. The development would include “fracking” — a dangerous process where massive amounts of water, laced with undisclosed chemicals, are blasted into the ground — and would go ahead without a thorough examination of the effects this drilling will have on California’s landscapes, wildlife, watersheds and air quality.

“Opening up these sensitive areas to fracking without even disclosing the risks is flat-out irresponsible,” said the Center’s Kassie Siegel. “Our public lands shouldn’t be sacrificed for more dirty fossil fuel development just when we need to shift as quickly as possible to a clean-energy future.”

“We’ve seen out-of-control and reckless drilling across the country, and now the industry has set its sights on California’s sensitive areas,” said Gary Lasky, Sierra Club California conservation leader in Fresno. “By ignoring the need for an environmental review, the industry is once again putting its profits ahead of the safety of local residents and the protection of our watersheds.”

Recent reports highlight the dangers of fracking, including over 1,000 instances of documented water contamination, either through the leaking of fracking fluids and methane into groundwater or via aboveground spills of contaminated wastewater. 

Despite these risks, the areas leased include designated watershed areas in Monterey County, and also habitat for endangered and threatened species like the San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard.

Oil and gas development also results in the release of significant amounts of methane, the primary constituent of natural gas. There are many cost-effective means to control methane leakage, and the BLM is required to ensure that oil and gas drillers do not waste methane, but the BLM has refused to consider any of these measures to avoid methane waste resulting from the proposed lease sale.

After denying a formal protest filed by the Center, Sierra Club and Los Padres Forest Watch, the BLM offered 2,703 acres of land in Monterey and Fresno counties for lease, of which 2,583 were leased for a total of $257,051.

The complaint is available here.

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