WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration on Thursday detailed its plan to open more than a million acres of public and private land in California to fracking, raising environmental concerns at a time when opposition to oil and gas drilling in the state is intensifying.
The action would end a five-year moratorium on leasing federal land in California to oil and gas developers. That pause came after a federal judge ordered the Obama administration to halt similar leasing efforts until it could better evaluate the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
Trump's plan – first proposed by the administration in 2018 -- targets public and private land spread across eight counties in Central California: eastern Fresno, western Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura.
The move drew immediate criticism from environmentalists, who said it would pose health risks and worsen air quality in a part of the state notorious for pollution.
"The Central Valley has some of the worst air quality in the nation, and we know fracking and drilling make air quality worse," said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group.
Lakewood said Trump's plan would unleash a "fracking frenzy" that would endanger people and wildlife alike.
Once a plan is finalized and approved, environmental groups are expected to sue to block it, as they have in the past.
Proposed by the Bureau of Land Management, the plan is only the latest in a series of attempts by the federal government to open public land in Central California to fracking.
In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without analyzing the environmental dangers of fracking. Three years later, another federal judge reached a similar conclusion.
Now the Trump administration is trying to breathe new life into the proposal, part of its nationwide campaign to promote domestic energy production.