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Judge rules that BLM violated law on California drilling leases

By Bob Downing Published: April 8, 2013

From Bloomberg News:

By Karen Gullo

April 8 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated an environmental law by failing to take the necessary "hard look" at the impact of hydraulic fracturing when it sold oil and gas leases in California, a federal judge said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, California, said the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by relying on outdated reviews, conducted before the extraction process known as fracking spurred massive development of energy deposits, when the U.S. sold four leases in 2011 for 2,700 acres of federal land in Monterey and Fresno counties.

"BLM’s dismissal of any development scenario involving fracking as ’outside of its jurisdiction’ simply did not provide the ’hard look’ at the issue that NEPA requires," Grewal said in a ruling yesterday.

The decision is the first federal court opinion to explicitly recognize the significant risks and controversies created by the spread of fracking across the U.S., said attorneys for the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued in 2011 to invalidate the leases.

"This is an important decision that recognizes the significant risks that fracking poses to California’s land, air and water," Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the group, said in an e-mail. "In an era of dangerous climate change, the federal government should not be leasing public land for extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction."

Monterey Shale

Some of the land covered by the leases is located in California’s Monterey shale formation, which spans 1,750 acres across the state’s central and southern regions. The formation is estimated to hold 15.4 billion barrels, or 64 percent of the nation’s total shale oil resources.

The group had asked Grewal to invalidate the leases, which he declined to do. Instead, he ordered both sides to meet and submit a remedy to him by April 15. Grewal granted the government’s request to throw out claims that the leases violated the Mineral Leasing Act.

Fracking involves forcing millions of gallons of chemically treated water underground to break up rock and free trapped natural gas or shale oil. The practice has sparked environmental litigation across the U.S.

Doran Sanchez, a BLM representative, didn’t immediately respond to e-mail messages seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Bureau of Land Management, 11-cv-06174, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).



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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.