The Trump Administration announced a plan this week to open up more than 1 million acres of land to fracking — a plan environmentalists argue could affect protected national parks.
The Bureau of Land Management released an environmental impact statement on Thursday that considers new oil and gas development on 1.6 million acres across central and Southern California, neighboring Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks. among other sites.
The bureau has not issued any fracking leases since a 2013 court ruling that the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act without first considering environmental impacts.
National parks and the Central Valley already suffer from poor air quality and fracking would only pile onto that problem, according to Mark Rose, National Parks Conservation Association’s Sierra Nevada field representative.
“The risks posed to our national parks by further oil and gas development — particularly these iconic treasures that helped to inspire the modern-day conservation movement — is saddening to say the least,” he said.
The planning area is located in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura counties
Fracking in California is rare, according to BLM’s report. The 30 largest onshore oil wells in the state were established before 1950 and just one has been established since 1990.
“The use of hydraulic fracturing in California has continued at the same low rate for many years, and it is unlikely to increase any time soon,” the report says.
The planning area includes about 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate, according to the report. Supporters of the plans say environmentalists are misguided.
“We’re not talking about a national park. We’re not talking about a wilderness area,” Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma told the LA Times. “These are lands that the Obama Administration affirmed are appropriate to carefully controlled development.”
Still, environmentalists are resistant to the plan, saying Sequoia National Park often sees more poor air quality days throughout the year than a smog-heavy place like Los Angeles.
Poor air quality in the Central San Joaquin Valley makes residents more susceptible to asthma attacks, heart attacks and stroke, as well as adds to the development of heart and lung diseases, according to Genevieve Gale, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition.
“The San Joaquin Valley is one of the most polluted air basins in the United States, and the oil and gas industry is a significant contributor,” she said.
All of this comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to put California on a path to 100 percent renewable energy.
The 45-day public comment period for the BLM proposal ends June 10.