An oil field along Highway 101 in central California. CalMatters photo

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and others filed suit Friday in federal court in Los Angeles to stop the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from opening more than a million acres of public land in the Central Valley to oil and gas extraction.

The lawsuit contends that BLM’s environmental review of the project failed to fully evaluate the significant and adverse impacts on the communities and environment of Ventura, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties, and requests that the court set aside the decision.

“BLM’s decision to advance this half-baked proposal isn’t just misguided, it’s downright dangerous,” Becerra alleged in a statement. “The risks to both people and the environment associated with fracking are simply too high to ignore. But that’s essentially what BLM is doing. We won’t ignore the facts and science when it comes to protecting our people, economy and environment — and we’re taking the Trump Administration to court to prove it.”

A request for comment sent to BLM’s media office was not immediately answered.

Fracking is a procedure in which oil and gas producers inject water, sand and certain chemicals at high pressure into tight rock formations to extract oil and gas. While most of the fluid is water, the process also involves the use of toxic chemicals that can pollute nearby groundwater and release air toxins when flowing back to the surface.

A growing body of evidence points to fracking as causing significant water and air pollution, harm to imperiled species, land subsidence or sinking and low-level seismic events, according to the lawsuit.

Becerra — who is joined in the complaint by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Air Resources Board, California Fish and Wildlife and California Department of Water Resources — alleges that BLM failed to adequately consider the potential for significant public harm caused by the plan.

BLM improperly assumes that only four wells per year will utilize fracking, grossly distorting its consideration of environmental impacts, the suit alleges.

In June, the plaintiffs submitted comments on BLM’s draft supplemental environmental impact statement, recommending that BLM withdraw its proposal and prepare a new analysis to fully consider environmental and health issues. However, BLM moved forward with its plan last month and issued a final record of decision.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.