Enviros Fight Fracking Leases in California

     SAN JOSE (CN) - The federal government illegally leased 2,700 acres in Monterey and Fresno Counties for oil and gas drilling, which could include fracking, without considering its impact on water quality and protected species, including the California condor, the Center for Biological Diversity says.
     Joined by the Sierra Club, the Center claims the Bureau of Land Management and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 by leasing the land without a thorough environmental impact report.
     "Among the numerous deficiencies of the EA [environmental assessment], BLM ignored or downplayed the impacts the lease sale and subsequent development would have upon endangered and sensitive species in the area, including the San Joaquin kit fox and the California condor," the complaint states.
     "Additionally, BLM failed to address the impacts to water quality and other resources that result from hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' a likely method of oil and gas extraction that could be applied to the leased areas. Moreover, by failing to require lessees to capture methane, a potent greenhouse gas often released during oil and gas operations, BLM failed to comply with the mandate of the MLA to protect nature resources and environmental quality, minimize waste, and minimize the effect on the ultimate recovery of mineral resources."
     The plaintiffs want the BLM ordered to prepare a complete environmental impact report before leasing the land on the Central Coast.
     The lease was auctioned on Sept. 14 by the Hollister field office of the BLM.
     The environmentalists' lead counsel is Brendan Cummings with the Center for Biological Diversity, of Joshua Tree, Calif.