Reuters | 8 September 2016
US Judge Halts Hydraulic Fracturing Plan for Federal Lands in California
A US judge on 7 September halted a plan to allow hydraulic fracturing on public lands in central California, saying a federal agency’s environmental plan should have taken a “hard look” at the potential effects of the process.
A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, in this file photo dated 29 April 2013. Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson.
The ruling, by US District Judge Michael Fitzgerald, was at least the second setback in 3 years for fracturing in California and came as the Obama administration’s rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands have been tied up in another court.
The US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which periodically leases out land to private producers, offered a plan that would have allowed hydraulic fracturing on about a quarter of new wells drilled on some 1 million acres across central California.
The final outcome is not clear as Judge Fitzgerald asked both sides for a further briefing on 21 September as the case enters its remedy phase.
But, it could be similar to that a 2013 case in which a federal judge ruled that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued oil leases in California’s Monterey County without considering the environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing.
Since that ruling, the BLM has refrained from holding any lease sales in that area until it completes an environmental review of the risks of hydraulic fracturing, said one of the plaintiffs in the cases, the Center for Biological Diversity.
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