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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity Sue BLM over Oil Leases

February 2012

On Wednesday, September 12, the Federal Bureau of Land management (BLM) held an auction that could result in the leasing out of thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive land in South Monterey County near Lake San Antonio for oil and gas development. Three oil and gas lease parcels in Fresno and Monterey counties were auctioned for a total of $257,051, including administrative fees, by the Bureau of Land Management in Sacramento.

Vintage Production California LLC, Bakersfield, paid the highest price per acre, $900 per acre and the highest total, $180,000, for a 200-acre parcel in Fresno County. Neil Ormond, Clovis, paid $56,401 for a 2,343-acre parcel in Monterey County. Lone Tree Energy, Littleton, Colo., paid $20,205 for a 40-acre parcel in Fresno County.

In December, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club filed a lawsuit opposing BLM leasing of this federal mining-estate without a thorough examination of the effects drilling will have on landscapes, wildlife and watersheds. Although there are many cost-effective means to control methane leakage, environmentalists do not believe that the BLM sufficiently considered these measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution resulting from the proposed lease sale.

Future gas drilling would likely involve high-pressure hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a highly controversial and dangerous drilling method linked to water contamination in other parts of the country. Recent reports show fracking has resulted in more than 1,000 documented cases of groundwater contamination, either through the leaking of fracking fluids and methane into groundwater or via aboveground spills of contaminated wastewater.

Oil and gas development also results in the release of significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Despite these risks, areas proposed for leasing include designated watershed areas in Monterey and habitat for endangered and threatened species such as the San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard.

Members may want to view the film "Gaslands" which is a documentary on serious negative impacts of fracking in various locations in the US.

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