Representatives Carbajal and Panetta Lead Colleagues in Calling on Leadership to Protect California Public Lands from Fracking

Washington, D.C., September 30, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Salud Carbajal and Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) led a group of 12 members of the California delegation in urging the House Appropriations Committee leadership to include a provision to protect public lands in California from new oil and gas development, including fracking, in any final Fiscal Year 2021 spending deal. The lawmakers previously co-led an amendment to include this language in the House’s appropriations bill, which was adopted and passed. 

“Without conducting sufficient environmental reviews, the Bureau of Land Management has put forward a plan to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land along the central coast of California to new oil and gas drilling,” said Congressman Panetta.  “Now, as the House and Senate convene to negotiate a Fiscal Year 2021 spending bill, my California colleagues and I are calling for a bicameral commitment to protect our precious lands.  I am proud the amendment I secured in the House-passed bill will help prevent new investments in fracking on our federal public lands.”

Rep. Carbajal and Rep. Panetta first wrote to the Bureau of Land Management in urging the Administration to revoke plans to open public lands on the Central Coast to fracking. In May, the Trump Administration approved new drilling on the Carrizo Plain National Monument for the first time since 2001, which prompted the lawmakers to block future drilling through the appropriations process.

“The people of the Central Coast do not want new oil or gas leasing on our public lands. The Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument are two of our most treasured natural wonders and I will continue fighting to protect them,” said Congressman Carbajal. “I’m glad to partner with Representative Panetta to protect the Central Coast’s natural heritage and call on the Senate to maintain provisions in the House-passed bill to prevent fracking and new oil and gas development in our region.”

The full text of the letter can be seen here and below:

Dear Chairwomen Lowey and McCollum, and Ranking Members Granger and Joyce:

As negotiations ensue for a fiscal year 2021 (FY21) spending bill, we urge you to maintain provisions protecting public lands in California from fracking and new oil and gas development.  Language prohibiting federal funds from being used to allow for any new oil and gas leasing, permitting, and drilling on federal public lands within California’s Central Coast, Bakersfield, and Carrizo Plain National Monument was adopted by the House of Representatives in section 123 of H.R. 7608, State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2021.

Implementing a federal moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities in public lands is in line with the state of California’s plan to fight the climate crisis, ensure clean air and water supply.  It is also consistent with similar moratoriums on offshore oil drilling—which have enjoyed bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans.  Evidence shows that fracking is a cause of significant water and air pollution, harm to imperiled species, land subsidence and low-level seismic events.  Despite the growing scientific body of evidence pointing to the substantial harm fracking causes, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has chosen to ignore it.

In December 2019, the BLM announced a final record of decision to allow for new oil and gas leasing in California.  Specifically, BLM proposes opening public lands near Carrizo Plain National Monument, Los Padres National Forest, Sequoia National Forest and Sierra National Forest to new oil and gas drilling.  Separately, on May 21, 2020, BLM also approved a new oil well and pipeline in the Carrizo Plain National Monument.  This would be the first well the BLM approves drilling on since the establishment of the monument in 2001.

These iconic California landscapes and natural resources need to be protected. New oil and gas drilling have no place in these natural habitats.  Despite BLM’s unsupported claims, these proposals will have serious environmental justice impacts. California’s Central Valley has already been disproportionately burdened by air pollution.  The Environmental Protection Agency, along with state agencies, have worked to develop and implement a plan to reduce pollution.  Expanded oil and gas operations put communities at risk and jeopardizes efforts to achieve clean air.

Additionally, our public lands are also an essential asset to our local outdoor and tourism economy.  In California alone, the outdoor recreation economy contributes $92 billion in economic spending annually and supports over 650,000 jobs.

It is imperative that Congress take the appropriate steps to protect California’s public lands, which are economic hubs that rely on healthy ecosystems.  As such, Congress should not allow taxpayer funds to be used to put our outdoor economy at risk and sell off our public lands. Therefore, we ask you to maintain section 123 of H.R. 7608.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.  Please do not hesitate to contact our offices should you have any questions.


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