Legal Agreement Blocks Drilling, Fracking Across 1 Million Acres of Central Coast

Source: Los Padres ForestWatch

Community and conservation groups, the State of California, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management reached an agreement [Monday] to suspend new oil and gas leasing across more than one million acres of public lands in California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.

The agreement resolves lawsuits filed in 2020 challenging a Trump administration plan to expand drilling and fracking in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. The lawsuits—filed by environmental justice, conservation and business groups and the state of California—cited the Bureau’s failure to consider fracking’s potential harm to public health and recreation in the region, as well as harm to the climate and possible groundwater and air pollution. In addition, the Bureau’s plan would have allowed drilling and fracking to occur near state parks and beaches, national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, the Pacific Crest Trail, and Carrizo Plain National Monument. Several schools, reservoirs, ecological reserves, and other community landmarks were also at stake.

List of areas protected by today’s agreement

Interactive map

It marks the third victory in conservationists’ long-running battle against plans to expand drilling in central California following similar wins in 2013 and 2016. These legal actions prevented new onshore oil and gas leasing in California from 2012 to 2020, a moratorium that is now back in place following today’s agreement.

Under the agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the Bureau will prepare a supplemental environmental report and, based on that analysis, consider whether the amend the agency’s management plan that governs where and how drilling can occur. Changes to the management plan could include more stringent standards to protect the environment and public health, and placing certain lands off-limits to drilling or fracking altogether.

The agency will hold at least one public meeting, provide several opportunities for the public to provide input, and prepare materials for Spanish-speaking communities disproportionately affected by pollution. The federal government will not offer any new leases for oil drilling until this new evaluation is complete, which could take one to two years or more.


The groups that secured today’s agreement include Center for Biological Diversity, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Los Padres ForestWatch, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Patagonia Works, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society, along with the state of California. They issued the following statements:

“These agreements require federal officials to disclose the harm that fracking does to the air, water and communities of Central California,” said Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For decades this region’s people and wildlife have been paying the price of filthy fossil fuel extraction. That has to end, and we’ll do everything possible to make sure these pauses become permanent bans.”

“Protecting public lands is not only a step forward, but also a way to prevent several steps back,” said Cesar Aguirre, a senior organizer with the Central California Environmental Justice Network. “Using public lands to prop up the oil industry is dangerous to our green spaces and communities. We must protect our public lands not only for us to enjoy, but for us to protect Earth. Green spaces should not fall victim to oil drilling, especially because the extraction sites are the epicenter of the climate crisis. The less epicenters that are approved the less steps back we take.”

“Today’s agreement protects the iconic landscapes that define central California, safeguards public health, and moves us closer to a cleaner energy future,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch. “Fossil fuel extraction has wreaked havoc on our public lands, our farms and our neighborhoods for far too long. We now have an opportunity to chart a new course for safe and healthy communities throughout our region.”

“The future of our business depends on the health of the planet, especially the wild places loved by our community,” said Hans Cole, head of environmental activism at Patagonia. “We’re grateful to have worked with our NGO partners to require a full evaluation of the impacts of drilling and fracking on public lands in Central California. This is a win for the environment.”

“This agreement provides a long overdue reprieve for local communities and nearby national parks like Sequoia and Kings Canyon, which already face climate change driven drought, high temperatures and annual wildfires, as well as some of the worst air quality in the nation,” said Mark Rose, Sierra Nevada program manager with National Parks Conservation Association. “Opening up over one million acres for oil and gas drilling in one of the most polluted regions of the country was an egregious decision by the Bakersfield Bureau of Land Management under the previous administration, and we are happy to see the Biden administration taking steps to protect California’s overburdened communities and environment.”

“Central Valley residents and grassroots activists work every day to make their communities healthy, and today they got a win in the fight against air and groundwater pollution from oil and gas development,” said Daniel Rossman, California deputy director with The Wilderness Society. “This agreement represents an important step towards ensuring our public lands are managed to prioritize people, clean air, clean water, and climate over fossil fuel industry profits.”

“Today’s win is a testament to the grassroots activism of Central Valley communities, who have fought oil and gas leasing in their backyards and supported people, public health, wildlife and climate,” said Nathan Matthews, a Sierra Club senior attorney. “Temporarily halting drilling on these lease parcels in Kern County is an important step toward stopping the unconscionable move of opening up new federal public lands for oil and gas leasing in the Central Valley, a region already overburdened by impacts of oil and gas extraction. The Biden administration should implement a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands.”

“This is a win not only for the environment and climate, but for the people who call Kern County home,” said Hallie Templeton, legal director for Friends of the Earth. “It is a disgrace that the federal government attempted to greenlight these leases without fully analyzing impacts on communities living nearby. Our victory has also worked to secure Spanish translation of pertinent documents, and live translation at public hearings, so that all stakeholders can truly have a seat at the table.”

“The Bureau has repeatedly authorized oil and gas development in Central California without taking a hard look at the severe consequences to local communities or the environment,” said Michelle Ghafar, senior attorney with Earthjustice. “The agency must stop and fully evaluate the community and environmental impacts of all the oil and gas expansion it is authorizing on public land in order to comply with the law.”

“Fracking on California’s public lands in the midst of our climate crisis and drought was always a pretty dubious idea and was straight-up unacceptable without proper environmental review,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s crucial that the BLM takes the time to evaluate what opening up these lands to drilling would look like for local communities, who already live with crippling water shortages and some of the worst air in the country.”

“Fracking is dangerous for our communities, damaging to our environment, and out of step with California’s climate goals,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement on behalf of Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). “The Trump Administration recklessly opened Central California up to new oil and gas drilling without considering how fracking can hurt communities by causing polluted groundwater, toxic air emissions, minor earthquakes, climate impacts, and more. In keeping with the Bureau of Land Management’s mission to preserve the health of our public lands, it must reassess this Trump-Era mistake.”


Fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands causes nearly a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, worsening the climate and extinction crises and disproportionately harming Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-wealth communities.

Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate policy proposals in recent years.

Oil and gas extraction uses well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroys habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills, leaks and other harms from drilling have done immense damage to wildlife and communities. Fracking and drilling also pollutes watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.

Los Padres ForestWatch

Written by Los Padres ForestWatch

Los Padres ForestWatch is a nonprofit that protects wildlife, wilderness, water, and sustainable access throughout the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Learn more at

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  1. The Santa Ynez River runs through the Burton Mesa and the Lompoc Terrace where the BLM Oil leases are open…how does this protect our diminishing water supply? The Santa Ynez River feeds Lake Cachuma …how does drilling and fracking not contaminate our drinking water supply? Other rivers and creeks run through the area…climate change is here, we need to protect all creeks, and rivers as blue corridors that reduce heat.

  2. This will lower us “greenhouse gas” emissions by increasing emissions overseas. In addition to increasing CO2 emissions overall (reduction here, bigger increase overseas where they don’t care and the additional emissions associated with transportation), we will achieve a substantial increase in other types of pollutants by outsourcing our oil production to countries with environmental standards that do not live up to our domestic requirements. This will also help reduce the number of jobs available in california offering a decent wage, while helping to support abusive labor practices overseas where the concepts of workplace safety, labor standards, and a living wage differ somewhat from ours. This decision will also compromise our ability to produce enough oil and gas domestically to meet our needs and those of our allies. This will weaken our position in the world relative to other countries like Russia and China, handing them a degree of strategic advantage over us. Finally, this decision will contribute to increasing the cost of oil and gas, which will contribute to price increases generally in addition to increased fuel and utility costs. These price increases will naturally have a disproportionate impact on those with the least financial means, effectively a tax targeted at the poor. To sum it up, this decision will increase the environmental impact of our energy use overall and weaken our ability to stand up to global adversaries like Russia and China while simultaneously shafting those with the least financial means.

    • Voice of Nonsense: The whole “drill here, it’s cleaner” argument is bogus when the companies do everything they can to avoid regulation. And it’s usually the same companies doing even dirtier drilling in the Mideast or developing nations. Nimby-ism is entirely justified given the terrible track record of oil drilling in this region. The promises of “well-paying, longterm” jobs are also bogus when workers get laid off as soon as prices go down. They made the same promises when the rigs first went off the coast, now they’re rusty eyesores. Watch the film There Will Be Blood, same nonsense different century. The oil companies promise schools, infrastructure, and unicorns and leave us with a filthy mess. Every time.

    • So your position CHILLIN is the current regulations for drilling in CA are effectively NOT more stringent than Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, etc.? Aside from being unable to respond without juvenile name calling, you’re also very wrong. You said Chip was just parroting “usual oil lobbyist talking points” yet you can’t seem to counter any of them with actual facts or relevant information.

    • Vor: Sorry, I forgot your feelings get easily hurt by the internet. To paraphrase our former First Lady, we need to be best and avoid belittling sensitive people because words hurt too. I’m not going to play the usual game of willful misinterpretation of views to better suit your horse medicine-addled arguments. Oil companies aren’t to be trusted and their record is self-evident to someone with a basic grasp of local history. Our local economy relies on natural beauty and quality of life that attracts tourism and high-skilled jobs. Not resource extraction. As another poster pointed out, this just isn’t really a good place to drill. Partly because of annoying people like me who value their pesky beaches and silly wildlife more than temporary jobs and shareholder profits. The latter of which seem to be the ultimate point of life for so many in this country.

    • So nice of you to trot out the usual oil lobbyist talking points, Chip. How did all those environmental standards work out for us when the Plains All American pipeline burst and left tar and dead animals all over our beaches? Did any companies step up to cap the leaking wells off Summerland? That’s a bad faith argument if I’ve ever seen one, because companies producing oil in the US do everything they can to rescind or circumvent enviro standards. How are those offshore oil rig jobs working out for us? Oh, there aren’t any? My bad. How much will a few mediocre wells contribute to oil prices set on a global market. I can answer that for you: zero. We’ve all heard the same talking points for over 100 years, none of them come to fruition. Just more boom & bust cycles, taxpayers footing cleanup bills, and pollution.

    • Indeed, Chill, it’s a waste of time to engage these bad faith actors … they will always make self-serving and hypocritical claims that they’re 100% correct and that you haven’t countered their points etc. etc. … never ever will they admit error or even the possibility of being in error.

    • Well neither of you have shown where Chip’s comments were incorrect, just more name calling, deflection and environmental NIMBYism (I’m going to still use lots of oil and oil based products, I just want it drilled in someone else’s backyard so in case of an accident or leak it doesn’t impact me, it just impacts others somewhere far away so I don’t know about it. Ignorance is bliss…).

  3. For some reason Edhat didn’t print this when I first wrote it.
    There is no doubt that drilling and pumping oil in other countries is much much more of a disaster than here.
    Plains All American Pipeline spill was 123,000 gallons, there are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil so that is 2,929 barrels spilled.
    Russia’s annual oil spillage is 7.5X greater than the entire Deepwater Horizon leak.
    That Russian leakage totals 5 Million Tons of oil annually. A barrel of oil weighs 300 lbs so quick math shows that is 33,333,333 million barrels, 1,399,999,986 billion gallons leaked in Russia per year. (It might even be higher if those are metric tons)
    Preferred Russian method of oil spill clean up? burn it.
    “Rosneft said the spill occurred on Wednesday at the Ekhabi oilfield in northern Sakhalin. The company decided to burn the spilled oil to “minimize ecological damage”.”

  4. The response by honest people to elite US and Euro greens shifting environmental problems, production and shipping to the rest of the world should be to agree that its an awful bit of sleight of hand and does nothing to improve climate change and may make things worse. Moving a 24 hour a day, 2 tons of carbons a day smokestack from Santa Barbara to China makes Santa Barbara nicer, and the net global result seems like it would remain the same, but its actually worse because the Chinese don’t use the scrubbers we’d have to use here, so the output would actually be greater from the Chinese smokestack.
    If it was about science and math we could figure it out easily, but since some people are religious about it, we get bogged down in the heresy charges.
    If all of the globes fossil fuels were provided by the US and Europe produced and processed to US and Europe equipment and production standards, the globe would begin to be cleaner immediately. So the most selfless green thing for you to do is to beg the world to let us provide what they need from here via our standards…

  5. More Green misinformation spread by the typical cast of buffoonery. Green on a mass scale doesn’t work, can’t work. Ya, makes sense right? Strip mine raw materials in Africa, depend on our enemies in China for batteries, turbines and panels with a dismal plan for recycling. All while limiting or dismantling nuclear power. Check out France, they get their electricity how? Spells out clearly how solar doesn’t work, displaces wildlife (desert tortoises on a massive scale) and incinerates birds right out of the sky. Not to mention the huge land mass which is required.
    Seriously, watch the YouTube presentation and then try to make an adult, cogent argument.

  6. Here is an interesting contrast. Proposed lithium mining in Nevada is being held up because of concerns about pollution and violating a Native American sacred site.
    Lithium mining in South America is “green” despite even more pollution and starving indigenous peoples of their water supply.

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