Environmental Groups Sue to Prevent Fracking on Federal Lands in California

The Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club are suing the Bureau of Land Management to prevent gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands. The lawsuit asserts that the bureau leased more than 2,500 acres in Monterey and Fresno counties to oil company representatives without doing a thorough analysis of the potential environmental impacts of fracking.

The leases were auctioned in September to an agent for Austin-based Vinton Exploration; LoneTree Energy & Associates, a Colorado-based broker for an undisclosed oil and gas exploration company; and Vintage Production California, LLC, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum. 

In their Dec. 8 complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the auction violated the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the bureau to do a thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of any oil or gas drilling on the land. The bureau's environmental assessment found that there would be no significant impact.

Fracking is a water-intensive and controversial process that has expanded in many areas of the country, raising concerns about impacts on drinking water supplies. The fracking process involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand at high pressure into shale formations to release previously inaccessible stores of natural gas.