BAKERSFIELD – Conservation groups sued the Trump administration on Tuesday 15. December to cancel the permit for the first new oil well and pipeline in the National Monument of the Carrizo Plain since its foundation in 2001.
The pilot also aims to clarify the fate of other long dormant wells and related facilities identified by the Land Use Planning Office for possible decommissioning in 2013.
It’s terrible that we have to go to court to protect our beautiful national monuments, but we’ll do what’s right, said Eileen Anderson, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. Trump’s administration broke the law to appease polluting industries, destroy public land and exacerbate the climate crisis. Fortunately, this disastrous race is over in the blink of an eye.
The board had originally approved the well and pipeline in 2018, but withdrew that approval last year after Los Padres ForestWatch and the Centre for Biological Diversity objected. Nature conservation groups have pointed out the possible damage that the well could cause to fauna, views and climate.
In May, the Board of Directors re-approved the project, ignoring the significant environmental damage. The proposed extraction of fossil fuels would harm endangered species, degrade the panoramas and violate several laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the monument’s resource management plan.
The site of the proposed well lies at the foot of the Caliente Mountains, on the western border of the National Monument of the Carrizo plain. The area is home to several protected species, including the endangered Khokhaki antelope squirrel, the Khokhaki fox and a flowering plant called Kern mallow.
Today’s process asks the Bureau to do what its own management plan requires: Stop drilling for oil in the Carrizo Plain National Monument and clean up the mess left behind, says ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper. More drilling and pipelines will take this precious landscape – and our planet – in the wrong direction.
The well is drilled on land that has not supplied oil since the 1950s. In 2016, the Bureau approved the oil company’s request to leave the old well, pipelines and other equipment on site. E&B Natural Resources will restore the area to its natural state, including recovery and re-use. The job was never done.
The Agency has approved new land development plans. The management plan for the monument provides for the phasing out of oil drilling in the National Monument, including the sealing and timely repair of old wells and platforms that have not produced oil for decades. Some of the oil wells in the Carrizo Plain National Monument have not been exploited since the 1950s, which may release greenhouse gases, leave a mark on the landscape and threaten groundwater resources.
The Group’s litigation requires a plan for the abandonment and recovery of old wells owned by E&B Natural Resources. In 2013, the Agency and the oil company started evaluating 12 inactive wells on the Carrizo plain to determine whether they should be permanently connected and the surrounding country restored to its natural state. Seven years later, only one of the wells has been treated. The Bakersfield-based oil company has faced a series of leaks and violations across California.
Tuesday’s trial was about the Russell Ranch oil field, which occupies approximately 1,500 acres of the Carrizo Plains National Monument and adjoining private land. In 2018, the field produced only 128 barrels of oil per day, representing 0.03% of the country’s total production and one of the lowest in the country. The country would be at the end of its life.
The lawsuit was brought before the United States District Court for the District of Los Angeles. The groups are represented by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic.
The Carrizo Plain National Monument is a vast expanse of golden meadows and star ridges known for their wild spring flowers. It is often referred to as the Californian Serengeti, one of the last undeveloped remains of the southern San Joaquin Valley ecosystem.
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