Nonprofits appeal Trump administration approval of new oil well, pipeline in Carrizo Plain National Monument

Posted at 4:41 PM, Apr 20, 2018

Two wildlife protection nonprofits have appealed a decision by the Trump administration to allow a new oil well and pipeline in Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Los Padres ForestWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity submitted their joint appeal Friday, claiming the well and pipeline would "harm threatened and endangered wildlife and mar scenic views."

"The irrational, illegal decision to approve this oil drilling imperils rare wildlife and contradicts the conservation purpose of this monument," said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Gabe Garcia, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management in Bakersfield, said the well was approved on March 16 and the approval was posted a week later on BLM’s website.

The appeal was filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals, the governing body that reviews cases where people or groups believe the BLM made a decision in error, Garcia explained.

Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch, said the two nonprofits looked into whether oil company E&B Natural Resources’ application to drill a new well complies with environmental protection laws and Carrizo Plain National Monument’s management plan.

“Oil drilling in the Carrizo Plain National Monument must comply with the highest environmental standards to ensure the protection of this iconic landscape,” said Kuyper. “This new well and pipeline fall far short of that standard, threatening the area’s rare wildlife and scenic views.”

Garcia and Kuyper say the federal government will now consider the concerns and decide to withdraw the approval, revisit and make changes, or hold the decision and move forward. If the latter happens, Kuyper says the groups could take the government to court.

"We’re prepared to do that but hopefully we can come to some resolution beforehand," said Kuyper.

Bakersfield-based E&B Natural Resources has been pumping oil for 50 years from an area that is now part of the national monument. The company’s lease predates the monument by several decades. The oil activities were legally grandfathered in and have been ongoing, but the new oil well is the first to be approved since the Carrizo Plain became a national monument 17 years ago. New oil leasing comes with much stricter standards than those in place 50 years ago.

The new well is planned on a pad that meets National Environmental Policy Act standards and exists within E&B’s already existing footprint, Garcia said.

The Interior Board of Land Appeals will now look at the concerns laid out in the appeal and the nonprofits’ requests for both a hearing and a stay to hold off on drilling. There is no timetable for IBLA’s response. Kuyper believes this will all unfold over the next few months

KSBY News reached out to E&B Natural Resources for a statement and will add it here once we receive it.