Feds agree to reverse Trump-era decision opening central California lands to drilling

California officials on Monday announced a settlement reversing a Trump-era decision opening central California to new oil and gas drilling on public lands.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) and a trio of state agencies against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2020. Newsom and Bonta joined the state Air Resources Board Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Water Resources In a challenge to BLM plans to allow drilling on more than 1 million acres of public lands.

The officials alleged the plan would open up the lands without a proper environmental review or an analysis of its impact on local residents.

The terms of the Monday settlement include a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing while the BLM conducts a more thorough review. The agency specifically agreed to conduct a new supplemental environmental impact statement before holding any new lease sales. The California officials will also reserve the right to dispute or challenge the replacement statement, according to Bonta’s office.

“Fracking is dangerous for our communities, to damaging our environment, and out of step with California’s climate goals,” Bonta said in a statement.

“The Trump Administration recklessly opened Central California up to new oil and gas drilling without considering how fracking can hurt communities by causing polluted groundwater, toxic air emissions, minor earthquakes, climate impacts, and more. In keeping with the Bureau of Land Management’s mission to preserve the health of our public lands, it must reassess this Trump-era mistake.”

Newsom spearheaded a number of state-level challenges to the Trump-era environmental and energy policies, most notably when the Trump administration announced plans to revoke a waiver allowing the state to impose stricter tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government. The waver has since been restored under the Biden administration.

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