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Fracking victory in the California courts!

April 13, 2013

The Monterey Shale beneath the Hames Valley in Monterey County Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Fracking activists in California have just won their first victory in the courts!  This past Sunday, U.S. Magistrate Paul Grewal with the US District Court in San Jose, ruled that the Bureau of Land Management had broken the law in 2011 when they leased land in Fresno and Monterey counties to the oil and gas industry without considering the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

The 2011 lease sale provoked an outcry from local landowners, environmentalists and Monterey County officials, who feared it could represent the start of a fracking boom. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club sued the bureau, arguing that the federal agency had not performed the kind of in-depth environmental analysis required by law. – Center for Biological Diversity’s Press Release.

Brendan Cummings, the senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity commented on the importance of this precedent-setting victory.

This important decision recognizes that fracking poses new, unique risks to California’s air, water and wildlife that government agencies can’t ignore…This is a watershed moment — the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the monumental dangers of fracking. – Brendan Cummings, Center for Biodiversity

The Monterey Shale has recently been targeted by the industry as it has been said to contain two-thirds of the U.S.’s shale oil reserves, or 15 billion barrels of oil.  In an article for IndyBay, Dan Bacher discusses the current trend of fracking in California:

 The controversial technique is already being used in hundreds — perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells,” according to a joint statement from the two groups. “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. Extracting this oil will certainly require more fracking in California –IndyBay

However Cummings has hope that this decision in the courts will serve as a moment of reflection and re-consideration.

In an era of dangerous climate change, the Obama administration should not sell off our public lands to be fracked for fossil fuel development that will only speed up global warming,” added Cummings. “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.


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