Bureau of Land Management to hold meeting on White House proposal to expand oil drilling, fracking

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The Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield office is set to hold a meeting Tuesday over a White House proposal that would expand oil drilling and fracking on more than a million acres of public land across the state. 

The proposal would allow oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on 1.6 million acres of public land in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.

The proposal includes 40 new wells over the next 10 years on roughly 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate —  land where the surface is owned privately, but the mineral rights beneath the ground are managed by the federal government.

“it’s dangerous,” Rosanna Esparza, an active member with the Kern Kaweah Sierra Club. She is helping to organize a protest and press conference at Tuesday’s Bureau of Land Management meeting.

Esparza said she is concerned about fracking, a process that pumps water, chemicals, and sand underground at high pressure to fracture rock, allowing trapped gases and oil to be released to the surface.    

“We can’t say with any authority what is in those chemicals that break up the earth,” Esparza said. “We do know from our own studies that lots of them are toxic,” she continued.

But Chad Hathaway, who created his own oil business 13 years ago, said California heavily regulates the oil industry to ensure environmental protection. Hathaway, who employs roughly 30 people, says this expansion would be good for the Kern economy for years to come.

“One oil well will sustain a lot of jobs over its life cycle. That can be 10 years or 40 years. I have oil wells over 60 years old in my company,” he said, adding “…the economic repercussions after the well is drilled is something  that will last for decades and decades and decades in Kern county and for the federal government.”

He said the Federal government received roughly $350 million from land leases in 2017. Hathaway added that 99 percent of fracking in California takes place on private land in Kern County.

 Tuesday evening’s meeting will take place at 6 pm at the Kern county Administrative Office in Downtown Bakersfield. The protest will begin at 4:30 outside the office.

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