Last Opportunity For Public Input On Proposal To Open 1 Million Acres In Central California To Oil Drilling And Fracking
Comments Period Ends June 10 Amid Claims of Efforts to Obstruct Public Input

Tens of thousands of public comments have already been submitted in response to the Trump Administration’s court-ordered study on the impacts of fossil fuel drilling and fracking across more than one million acres of federal land and mineral estate. The study covers nine central California counties, from Monterey County in the north to Ventura County in the south, and from the coast inland to the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The 45-day public comment period ends on June 10.

In its draft study of the environmental impacts of hydrologic fracturing, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed no changes to its 2015 plan to allow new oil drilling and fracking in and adjacent to national forests, parks and monuments, state, county and city parks, beaches, wildlife refuges, rivers, reservoirs, schools, and other areas especially sensitive to environmental and health impacts. Even parcels along the Pacific Crest Trail remain in the plan.

Over 150 people attended each of the three meetings last month, in Bakersfield, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara, hosted by the BLM as part of the public comment period associated with the release of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Amid expressed concerns about water, schools, and health impacts like asthma, residents speaking at the meetings expressed outrage at the Bureau of Land Management’s refusal to record their comments and to add them to the project record. Moreover, the BLM refused to respond to a unanimous request by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to hold a public hearing in Ventura County. A similar request by Congresswoman Julia Brownley was similarly ignored.

“Apparently, the BLM is more concerned with the public feeling like they are heard than actually hearing from the public,” said Los Padres ForestWatch Public Lands Advocate Rebecca August. “The BLM is fast-tracking this process at the expense of public participation, and is refusing to make any changes to its plan to address the known environmental and public health impacts of fossil fuel drilling and fracking on public lands.”

The BLM considered just 211 of over 8,400 letters submitted during last year’s scoping period, claiming that 97.5% of public comment, which was overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal, was not what it deemed substantive and original.

The DEIS is subject to new guidelines, imposed by the Trump administration, which restrict the length of the study to no more than one year and 150 pages, regardless of the project’s scope and complexity. Environmental impact studies are critical to understanding how a project might impact water, air, soils, wildlife, archeological resources, other land uses, and public health. They also are meant to identify and explore project alternatives that may be more suitable to a particular site, and often take years to develop.

“This is the public’s last chance to weigh in on this misguided proposal that threatens our region’s air, water, wildlife, and favorite outdoor recreation destinations,” said Jeff Kuyper, Executive Director of Los Padres ForestWatch. “The fate of our region’s iconic landscapes are at stake, and we need residents throughout the region to send a message loud and clear that our public lands belong to the people, not the oil industry.”

ForestWatch has posted the BLM’s GIS data on an easy-to-use interactive map showing the parcels open for drilling and fracking.

The BLM is accepting comments on its study of drilling and fracking until June 10. This is the only comment period on the agency’s study until a decision is issued, which is expected in September. The public can submit comments to BLM via an easy on-line portal at or directly through the BLM’s website.

According to the BLM data, the plan will open several key parcels in Ventura to drilling and fracking, including:

1. Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s Ilvento Preserve, a 80-acre parcel, the first land acquisition for OVLC, donated by the Ilvento Family in 1997. Located on a ridge near The Thacher School in the east end of Ojai Valley, the Preserve is host to diverse native plant communities and important wildlife corridors. The parcel is open to the public and features breathtaking views of the Ojai and Upper Ojai valleys, Topa Topa Bluffs, and Chief Peak.

2. The Thacher School in Ojai. The 40-acre parcel – located between Thacher and Reeves creeks – is on the eastern edge of campus, and the mineral rights below the parcel are owned by the federal government. The parcel contains a popular hiking trail near the school’s Gymkhana Field where students practice their horsemanship skills and participate in annual competitions and races.

3. A privately-owned 40-acre parcel is located between Sisar Canyon and Koenigstein Road in Upper Ojai.

4 .Nearly 1,500 acres of federal public land adjacent to and within one mile of the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, which serves as the hub for efforts to reintroduce endangered California condors into the wild Several parcels between Fillmore and Piru, a scattering of parcels on the ridge separating Lake Casitas from Highway 101 along the coast, several parcels in the hillsides behind the City of Ventura.

5. A small parcel on Boney Mountain in Point Mugu State Park.

6. A few parcels in the Upper Cuyama Valley and near Frazier Mountain in the far northern portion of the county.

7. Naval Base Ventura County: the Port Hueneme Naval CBC, the Pt. Mugu Naval Base, and all of San Nicolas Island (one of the eight Channel Islands located offshore Ventura County).