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Plan to restart oil drilling in Carrizo Plain National Monument halted

Greta Mart/KCBX
The Carrizo Plain National Monument during the 2019 superbloom.

An oil company's plan to build a new oil well and pipeline in the Carrizo Plain National Monument has been blocked, after the California Bureau of Land Management (BLM) overruled a 2018 decision by the BLM’s Bakersfield field office.

Last year, the Bakersfield field office approved an application for oil company E&B Natural Resources to restart drilling in an area of San Luis Obipso County out of production since the 1950s, but “grandfathered in” when the national monument was created in 2001.

But in a July 12 decision, the state BLM office said that plan would harm protected wildlife and the climate, and ordered the field office to complete a new environmental analysis and consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

“We find that the Bakersfield field office has not provided sufficient evidence to show compliance with Section 7 of the [Endangered Species Act] regarding impacts to threatened and endangered species from all alternatives and for all components of the proposed project,” said James Scrivner, deputy state director of the BLM’s Division of Energy and Minerals, in the decision.

The decision adds that the state BLM office also found “the Bakersfield field office has not adequately and completely considered the project’s component [greenhouse gas] emissions associated with the well and the effects on climate.”

An appeal to the Bakersfield field office’s approval of the oil company’s application was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Los Padres ForestWatch.

“We’re thrilled the California BLM now recognizes that new oil wells can’t be allowed in Carrizo Plain without analysis of their contribution to the climate crisis,” said Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Lisa Belenky in a July 16 statement. “The earlier decision would have undermined this spectacular national monument’s conservation purpose and threatened rare wildlife like the California condor."

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