LOS ANGELES (AP) — The federal government has opened 725,000 acres in Central California to oil and gas drilling on land that has been off-limits since 2013.
The Bureau of Land Management issued its final decision Friday to allow oil and gas leases on plots that are mostly in the Central Valley, but also include parts of the Central Coast. The area includes parts of Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties, and would allow for 32 new gas and oil development wells to be added.
The plan announced in May is part of a Trump administration goal to make the U.S. energy independent that has been criticized as a giveaway to industry.
Environmentalists who successfully blocked the Obama administration from opening the land to drilling criticized the new development.
The Center for Biological Diversity called the effort reckless and says it will continue to fight the government.
“This reckless move is the toxic convergence of Trump’s climate denial, loyalty to the oil industry and grudge against California,” Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Hill. “Turning over these spectacular wild places to dirty drilling and fracking will sicken Californians, harm endangered species and fuel climate chaos. We’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
The BLM says additional approval will be required for before any drilling.