Environmentalists Win Major Fracking Lawsuit in California

Environmentalists scored a major victory in federal court in their battle against fracking in California when a judge ruled that the BLM violated NEPA by not requiring an environmental review prior to auctioning rights for drilling in Monterey Co.

Virginia Hennessey writes about the decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, made public April 7.

Grewal faulted the Bureau of Land Management for not reviewing the potential impacts caused by fracking before accepting bids for the drilling rights, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The law suit against BLM had been brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (see press release) and the Sierra Club.

"This is a watershed moment — the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the monumental dangers of fracking", proclaimed Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity

Hennessey writes that the ruling will have far-reaching effects on fracking in what is believed to be the shale basin holding the most oil in the U.S.

While the ruling directly affects lease sales on only about 2,500 acres in south Monterey County, the lawsuit's co-plaintiffs are poised to sue over 17,000 acres that BLM subsequently auctioned off in December 2012 while Grewal's ruling was pending.

In addition to the litigation, "Monterey County Supervisors Dave Potter and Simon Salinas were two of the local representatives who sought the delay of the 2012 lease sales.

"This puts the brakes on and forces everyone to do more environmental review," said Salinas, adding that it may provide time for passage of state legislation to ensure safety.

On those lines, Jeremy B. White of the Sacramento Bee writes that one such bill that "would require the energy industry to disclose more information about the amount of water and types of chemicals it uses" cleared the state senate on April 9.

Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, the author of Senate Bill 4, called it a needed mechanism for holding the energy industry accountable.

Full Story: Judge: U.S. violated law in Monterey County oil leases

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