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

Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity Win a Major Fracking Decision for Central California

August 2013
Salinas Valley Twilight The Salinas Valley is under pressure for private oil and gas leasing. This will threaten prime agricultural land, water supplies and human health as well as destroy the unique natural landscape of our region. Photograph: Steve Zmak

On August 2, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that it would halt two hydraulic fracturing leases for oil drilling on federal lands managed by their Hollister BLM office and covering several counties including Monterey. This decision came in the wake of a legal victory earlier this year in a suit brought by Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which challenged the BLM's decision to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in Monterey County to oil companies. The BLM has now further agreed to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the effects and risks of fracking in the Monterey Shale, a region stretching from Ventura to Santa Cruz Counties.

This decision by the BLM follows a U.S. Northern CA District Court ruling in April that concluded that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. The Court ruled that BLM failed to consider the increased development potential of hydraulic fracturing and that BLM's decision to rely upon an out of date environmental assessment was arbitrary and capricious. The Court further ruled that the BLM would have to conclude that environmental impacts were potentially significant and that the new drilling techniques warranted a new EIS.

This legal case was originally brought by the Sierra Club and CBD in December 2011. In April this year, the plaintiffs filed a second case challenging a larger 17,000-acre BLM oil lease in the same region of the Monterey Shale. The Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club provided funds to partially cover the costs of these legal actions.

Hydraulic fracturing is not the only newer form of drilling technology involved. The Oil Industry has stated that acid treatment or "acid jobs" are expected to be a common technique in the Monterey Shale. This technique will use a cocktail of hydrofluoric acid and other chemicals to dissolve rocks and other earthen materials in oil wells to allowing oil to flow more freely for extraction.

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology has become notorious for its contamination of ground water in numerous states stretching from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. Extensive evidence has accumulated to show that oil and gas wells commonly leak fracking contaminants into ground water basins through which the oil well casing passes to reach the petrochemicals that can be miles deep in the earth. Oil wells are sealed with cements that fill the space between the drill hole and the well pipe or casing. These cement plugs commonly fail and allow contaminants and fracking chemicals to rise from deep in the earth and pollute shallower ground water. The well pipes (casings) themselves also crack and corrode. Fracking uses extreme water pressure to break up rock miles deep in the earth. The well sites are major industrial facilities and are nothing like the older pump jacks that have operated in California for the last hundred years.

< back to all issues

section title

Sierra Club and CBD Submit Comments to Bureau of Land Management's Request for Public Review of Oil and Gas Leasing and Development on Federal Lands
April 2017

Sierra Club Plans to Comment on Bureau of Land Management Request for Public Review of Oil and Gas Leasing and Development on Federal Lands
January 2017

Crude Oil Train Rail Spur Extension Project Closer to Approval by San Luis Obispo Planning
May 2016

Sierra Club and Other Groups File Lawsuit against California Oil Regulators
December 2015

Sierra Club, Other Groups File Federal Lawsuit to Curb Unsafe Oil Trains
May 2015

Earthjustice, Sierra Club and Center of Biological Diversity File Lawsuit to Halt California Oil Injection Practices
May 2015

Sierra Club Condemns State Injection Well Practices, Calls for Investigation
February 2015

Sierra Club Submits Comment Letter to DOGGR
November 2014

Monterey County Board of Supervisors Review Fracking Regulations
September 2014

Trio Petroleum Well Permit Denied at Monterey County Planning Commission
August 2014

A Renewable Energy Economy?
August 2014

Sierra Club CA Submits Comments to DOGGR on Fracking
August 2014

Chapter Submits Comments to BLM Regarding the Dangers of Fracking
February 2014

Santa Cruz County Moves To Adopt Fracking Moratorium
December 2013

Sierra Club Opposes Weak Fracking Bill SB 4 Passed by the Assembly
September 2013

Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity Win a Major Fracking Decision for Central California
August 2013

Chapter Submits Comments to State Regulatory Board Regarding Lack of Oversight for Fracking; Public Concern Grows
May 2013

Sierra Club and CBD Win Major Fracking Lawsuit Victory
April 2013

New Sierra Club Lawsuit Aims to Protect More Public Lands from Fracking
April 2013

Sierra Club Sues California Department of Conservation Over Dangers of Fracking
October 2012

Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity Sue BLM over Oil Leases
February 2012

Club files protest to stop fracking in Monterey County
August 2011

Controversial fracking method approved for oil drilling near Salinas River
April 2011