Enviros Sue BLM Over South County Lease Sale
December 13, 2011
Oil prospectors lining up to do business in Monterey County may have to wait, depending on what federal court decides on a request for an injunction filed Dec. 8.
The plaintiffs, San Francisco groups Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club, protested the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's lease sale of some 2,600 acres in Monterey and Fresno counties to subsurface minerals; BLM dismissed the protest and proceeded with a lease sale Sept. 14, where buyers in Sacramento bought rights to the parcels for high rates.
In the complaint, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the plaintiffs largely rehash their original protest document and say BLM didn't do enough to address their concerns in the environmental documents that allowed the sale to proceed. Rather than conducting a comprehensive Environmental Impact Analysis, BLM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact. The lease sales, BLM notes, are simply that: sales. To develop any oil exploration on the sites, operators would still need to apply for separate permits.
The complaint enumerates the threats associated with fracking, the technique BLM expects would be used to extract oil from the site based on geologic analysis and the deep shale formation. They say fracking fluids can contaminate groundwater, and also require significant groundwater: one well can require up to 5 million gallons to fracture.
"BLM ignored or downplayed the impacts the lease sale and subsequent development would have upon endangered and sensitive species in the area," according to the complaint. Other prospective negative impacts they list are: damage to water quality; reduction of recreation opportunities; impaired aesthetic value; loss of scientific study opportunities; contribution to climate change by producing greenhouse gases; and potential seismic threats.
Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity are seeking a ruling that deems this lease sale unlawful, which would render all sold leases illegal as well.