Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

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Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain
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A herd of Tule Elk in the Carrizo Plain (Photo: Patti Gutshall)

Source: Los Padres ForestWatch

On the eve of a holiday weekend and during a global pandemic, the Trump administration last week approved a new oil well and pipeline in Carrizo Plain National Monument. It would be the first well drilled in the monument since it was established in 2001.

The Bureau of Land Management originally approved the well and pipeline two years ago but withdrew that approval in July 2019 after Los Padres ForestWatch and Center for Biological Diversity filed objections. The conservation groups cited the well’s potential harm to wildlife, views and the climate. 

“While many of us are worried about basic needs during a time of crisis, the Trump administration is busy catering to the oil industry at the expense of people and the planet,” said ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper. “The Carrizo Plain National Monument is one of our region’s most precious wild places and deserves better than this.”

The oil well and pipeline would harm threatened and endangered wildlife and mar scenic views. This fossil fuel development would violate several laws, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the monument’s resource-management plan.

The proposed well site is located at the base of the Caliente Mountains, inside the western boundary of Carrizo Plain National Monument. The area is home to several protected species, including threatened San Joaquin antelope squirrels, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and a threatened flowering plant called the Kern mallow. Endangered California condors also visit this area with increasing frequency as they continue to expand into their historic range.

“The Trump administration’s irrational decision to approve oil drilling in this spectacular place ignores climate change, imperils rare wildlife, and contradicts the monument’s conservation purpose,” said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of expanding oil and gas drilling, we need to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground and turn to renewable energy sources.”

The oil well would be drilled on an existing oil pad that hasn’t produced oil since the 1950s. In 2016 the BLM approved the oil company’s request to formally abandon the pad and remove an old well, pipelines and other equipment from the site. The company also pledged to recontour and reseed the pad and a half-mile access road leading to it, restoring the area to natural conditions. The work was never done, and now the BLM is attempting to backtrack on these abandonment plans by approving further development.

The new well is located on an existing oil lease that was “grandfathered” in under the monument proclamation signed by President Bill Clinton in 2001, but new development is supposed to comply with more stringent standards.

The well would be drilled in the Russell Ranch Oil Field, which covers approximately 1,500 acres of the monument and adjacent private land. In 2018 the field produced only 128 barrels of oil per day ― 0.03% of the state’s total oil production and one of the lowest-producing oilfields in the state. The field is reportedly nearing the end of its useful life.

When the California BLM withdrew its original approval of the well last year, it directed its Bakersfield Field Office to substantially revise its environmental assessment and consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But the BLM’s new decision continues to disregard significant environmental impacts and potential harm to the conservation values of the monument. 

About the Carrizo Plain

Carrizo Plain National Monument is a vast expanse of golden grasslands and stark ridges known for their springtime wildflower displays. Often referred to as “California’s Serengeti,” it is one of the last undeveloped remnants of the southern San Joaquin Valley ecosystem. 

The Carrizo Plain is critical for the long-term conservation of this dwindling ecosystem, linking these lands to other high-value habitat areas like the Los Padres National Forest, Salinas Valley, Cuyama Valley and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in western Kern County.

Honoring the area’s high biodiversity, limited human impacts and rare geological and cultural features, the Carrizo Plain was declared a national monument in 2001. It includes more than 206,000 acres of public lands ― perhaps the largest native grassland remaining in all of California.

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a-1594501879 May 28, 2020 10:38 AM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

There is a surplus of oil that can't be given away or stored , use that ...just goes to show how greedy and nonsensical this destructive President is. Killing 100,769 people isn't enough he needs more. The worst President in all of History! Any commander and chief who lost over 100,000 during war would be kicked out, that needs to happen.

ChillinGrillin May 27, 2020 11:26 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

All this trouble for 128 barrels of oil a day? If this is what our idiot president has to give back to his biggest supporters then this is pathetic. He might as well throw paper towels or tell them to inject disinfectants.

macpuzl May 27, 2020 07:49 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

While he is extremely narcissistic, Twitler is not a billionaire - he just wants you to think he is. He so far is only a wannabe dictator, but we'll have to watch that closely. It's worrisome that he has a lapdog senate and an emasculated Justice Department.

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 05:57 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

This is a statement by the anti California Trump administration. The entire oilfield produced 128 barrels of oil a day which is about what the US uses in 1/2 a second. I am sure that this new pad will really make a difference in our energy independence. Just more posturing by Hair Furor.

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 05:08 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

You haven't done your homework Chip. I've never been a fan of Moore and don't care for how he crafts his arguments - My wife enjoys his work. Based on your rudimentary assumptions of renewables - it's obvious you have a lot of reading up to do. The information he is working with is no longer relevant.

Chip of SB May 27, 2020 05:02 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

That being the case, how do you reconcile Michael Moore's perspective on "green" energy? He's not exactly the poster child of conservatism, and he is arguing that "green" energy is a fraud. I want to protect the environment. If a molten salt solar power array is more destructive to the environment than building a plain old natural gas power plant, then I want to go with the natural gas power plant. Analyze the impact of different energy options and pick what is best. Isn't that a "science based" approach?

Chip of SB May 27, 2020 04:28 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

It is very popular here to criticize oil and gas. I think the so-called "green" alternatives being pursued today deserve the same level of scrutiny. I would highly recommend everyone check out Michael Moore's new documentary called "Planet of the Humans." I'm no fan of Michael Moore, and I think his work should be viewed with skepticism. However, it was fascinating to see that hardcore environmentalists have deep fundamental concerns about "solar" and "wind" energy and other "renewable" sources. For example, the documentary gives some insight into those giant solar arrays in the desert on the way to Vegas. They are not as "green" as you might think. First, a vast expanse of endangered yucca trees that were several centuries old was shredded to clear the space for the solar arrays. In addition, a natural gas power plant is required to warm up the molten salt every morning and when the sun isn't shining. So much gas power is required to operate the molten salt "solar" power plant that it would be more practical to simply run a natural gas power plant and skip the solar operation. The solar arrays are effectively a front for a gas power plant, it's a scam. To top it all off, the whole solar operation is destined to be abandoned after a relatively short useful service life, leaving behind a vast dead zone where the irreplaceable yuccas once thrived. The documentary also goes into the environmental destruction that is caused by making the solar panels such as blasting off mountain tops to get the silica needed to make the glass (sand from the desert isn't suitable), cobalt mining, etc. Trying to "replace" oil and gas with these "clean" and "green" alternatives might actually do more harm than good.

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 04:59 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

Chip, if you were really skeptical of Moore you would have done some research on the claims instead of accept everything you see in media as fact. The environmentalists and people I work with in the energy field were laughing about the film https://www.sciencenews.org/article/what-michael-moore-new-film-gets-wrong-about-renewable-energy

CoastWatch May 27, 2020 03:22 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

Drill. Having been to the Plains for over 20 yrs, camping, hiking etc. I see zero reason why it can't be shared with drilling in prior locations. We need to be self-sufficient... That should be clear after this CV situation. Environmental standards will be maintained and enforced thanks to Nixon's E.P.A. :) :)

macpuzl May 27, 2020 03:09 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

Here's what we should be doing, instead of killing ourselves with petroleum fuels and coal: =========================================================================== https://phys.org/news/2019-08-scientists-hydrogen-gas-oil-bitumen.html =========================================================================== https://phys.org/news/2020-05-water-splitting-module-source-perpetual-energy.html

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 05:19 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

JAYKAY - that made no sense, but rest assured I "tackle" this issue every day. I work in energy and am pretty familiar with what it takes to build solar arrays and wind farms. Yes, it takes some oil at the front end, but no one has ever said to stop using petroleum based products. We're saying stop RELYING on them for energy. We will always need them to an extent, but we don't need to bleed the earth dry of oil and coal when we could be using the sun, wind and water INDEFINITELY and without a fraction of the pollution caused by oil production. It's about being aware of the long term issues, not the immediate ME ME ME mentality of many here.

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 04:30 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

JAYKAY - why does it matter where they come from? It's without a doubt less damaging to our environment and more sustainable (since coal WILL run out) to adopt clean, renewable forms of energy. Yeah, that means even if we have to use a few petroleum based products to build them. It's not all or nothing. The argument that if you are against coal means you can't drive a car, use a computer, etc etc is tired, old and illogical. Anyone still spouting that needs to actually read. I don't engage with that nonsense.

PitMix May 27, 2020 02:40 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

Based on what data? A pipeline break would certainly affect wildlife and those Santa Maria companies have spills at their sites all of the time. Next car I drive will be non-fossil fuel and I am installing solar panels and a storage unit at my house. Our state doesn't even get extraction taxes like every other state does. How about if we move towards a sustainable future and leave the Plain alone?

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 01:57 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

Yes, let's risk endangered species, groundwater and soil contamination, and further desecrating a beautiful rural environment, to drill into ONE OF THE LOWEST PRODUCING OIL FIELDS IN THE STATE THAT IS ALSO NEARING ITS END OF LIFE. Jesus H Christ these idiots in power (hand-picked to protect the environment, mind you) are unbelievably horrible at their jobs.

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 01:55 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

What a one sided piece of blather. If this were a real news piece, it would at least try to show the counterpoint. Reminds me of the article what I read yesterday about news stations reporting as news an Amazon press release. Always consider the source of what you are ingesting..... Here come the down votes......

biguglystick May 27, 2020 01:11 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

HORRIBLE. Is nothing sacred? I hate this administration with a red hot passion. Money is Trump's god. I cannot WAIT until he is OUT of here. This beautiful land, it means so much to me. He would destroy everything for a dollar. Sickening. Unconscionable.

a-1594501879 May 27, 2020 03:01 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

SAM - you can't rely on 20 year old energy decisions. At that time, "renewable energy" was something only hippies talked about. Now, wind and solar has surpassed coal in terms of energy production. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=39992. Now, in 2020, raping and drilling in a beautiful natural place like Carrizo shouldn't be even on the table.

PitMix May 27, 2020 02:43 PM
Trump Administration Again Approves Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain

I don't think money is his goal. Disruption and chaos are his goals, and securing the oil and coal union vote for the next election. He thinks it is 2016 all over again when no one thought he had a chance so they didn't bother to vote.

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