A federal judge has ruled that the Obama Administration violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County, Calif., without considering the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The ruling came in response to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, challenging a September 2011 decision by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in southern Monterey County to oil companies.
“This is a watershed moment — the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the dangers of fracking,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center, who argued the case for the plaintiffs.
Fracking employs huge volumes of water mixed with sand and chemicals to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The controversial technique is already being used in hundreds — perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells. Oil companies are aggressively trying to frack the Monterey Shale, which stretches from the northern San Joaquin Valley into Los Angeles County, and west to the coast.
“We hope this court ruling acts as a wake-up call that steers the federal government away from sacrificing California’s public lands for dangerous oil development,” added Cummings.
The court has asked for a joint recommendation on next steps in the case. The Center and the Sierra Club believe the lease sale should be set aside. At a minimum, no drilling or fracking on the leases will be allowed before the completion of thorough analysis of the environmental risks.
(Source: Center for Biologic Diversity)