BLM Considers South County Oil and Gas Lease
April 11, 2011
The Bureau of Land Management has released an environmental assessment of a proposed oil and gas lease sale that would offer about 2,400 acres of federal mineral estate--below-ground federal holdings on private land--in South County.
This lease proposal is a scaled down version of what BLM initially proposed in 2009, of parcels comprising about 3,500 acres. After the larger area came under fire with objections regarding water quality and animal habitat from Ventana Conservation and Land Trust, the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres Forest Watch, BLM returned with a more modest plan.
BLM is now accepting public comment on the environmental assessment. “Once the environmental assessment is approved, the public still has a substantial opportunity to protest the sale," says George Hill, Association Field Manager at BLM's Hollister field office. If a bidder acquires mineral rights, they would still have to file for a drilling permit, a process that would also be open to public comment. As of this writing, no formal comments had been submitted.
The comment period opened April 1, just days after the County Planning Commission granted a six-month continuance to a Denver-based oil company, Venoco, to furnish environmental information in response to an appeal filed by Ventana Land Trust and the Lockwood-based community group, Halt Oil Drilling Now.
The organizations requested that more study on the environmental and groundwater impacts of fracking, a process in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected into deep rock, before Venoco proceed with up to nine exploratory wells.
For the federal land, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources vets applications for operations, but neither BLM nor DOGGR gathers information on fracking in the permitting process.
The bidding is scheduled for Sept. 14 in Sacramento.
Comments can be submitted to Sky_Murphy@blm.gov, by fax to (831) 630-5055 or sent to BLM Hollister Field Office, 20 Hamilton Court, Hollister, CA 95023, postmarked by April 30.