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The Trump Administration’s plan to expand oil drilling and fracking on Central Coast met with strong opposition

Posted at 10:55 PM, May 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 02:14:15-04

Dozens rallied against the Trump Administration’s plan to open more than a million acres for oil drilling and fracking on the Central Coast.

The meeting held by the Bureau of Land Management Wednesday night focused on the environmental impacts of fracking outlined in the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) rather than the potential of opening the land.

However, local environmentalists and leaders made their strong opposition to oil drilling or fracking clear.

One woman has concerns the place she calls home could be exploited.

‘Why would they propose something so close to the [Los Osos Middle] School and to the bay, it’s concerning,” said Tami Boyd, a Los Osos resident.  

The ground beneath Los Osos Middle School, Montana de Oro, Carrizo Plain National Monument and other locations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties could become available to oil companies under the Trump Administration’s plan to expand oil drilling and fracking.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon says that plan hurts the city’s effort to be fossil fuel free by 2035.

“It’s completely offensive that the federal administration would be trying to come into our communities and give away the people’s land for such a destructive purpose,’ said Heidi Harmon, mayor of San Luis Obispo.

The plan would end a five-year-old moratorium on leasing federal public land in the state to oil companies.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not issued a lease in California since 2013 when a federal judge ruled it had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing oil leases in Monterey County without considering fracking’s environmental impacts.

Now the BLM is taking a second look at it.

“We don’t believe there would be significant environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing,” said Serena Baker, BLM spokesperson.

Baker says if the public land becomes available, not all of it would necessarily be used for oil extraction.

She says companies would have to apply for use of the land.

“Then that would trigger a more site-specific environmental analysis of that parcel, would it be conducive for oil and gas extraction or not,” said Baker.

According to BLM, permits to use hydraulic fracking must be submitted to and approved by California even if the oil company was leased the federal land.

Since the supplemental EIS looks at the development of new wells, many say more should be done to evaluate existing ones.

Baker says California’s geography makes the process of hydraulic fracturing different.

“Here in California, because our oil is much shallower, they actually use a fraction of the water that is used in other areas,” said Baker.

The EIS acknowledges the potential threat of groundwater contamination and spills, but the BLM says preventive measures would be taken.

“I find it interesting that 10% of the oil that Californians use every day to heat our homes and power our cars is actually produced on public lands and of that roughly 5% of those federal leases actually use hydraulic fracturing,” said Baker. “It’s a fairly small percentage.”

U.S Representative Salud Carbajal says he strongly opposes the plan, promising to ralliers his effort to fight it.

Supporters of the plan say it could boost the local economy and create job opportunities.

The public comment period ends June 10th and only formal written comments will be accepted.