BLM sells oil and gas leases in central California shale area

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December 17, 2012

(Environment & Energy Daily; Dec. 13) - The Bureau of Land Management sold oil and gas leases Dec. 12 covering more than 17,000 acres of federal land in central California amid protests from environmentalists and a state congressman's request to delay the sale until concerns about hydraulic fracturing are addressed. All 15 leases in Fresno, San Benito and Monterey counties were sold as developers look to tap the Monterey Shale formation that stretches from Northern California south to the Los Angeles area.

"Obviously, there's a lot of interest in this one because of the potential shale development," said Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association in Sacramento. The lease sale, however, was strongly opposed by environmentalists. Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) urged BLM in a letter last week to postpone the sale. Farr noted in his letter the "public concern" over the potential use of hydraulic fracturing and threats to water quality.

In total, 11 protests were filed against the BLM parcels offered in the lease sale by groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity and Clean Water Action. BLM has 60 days from the day of the lease sale to resolve the protests. Any drilling on the leases requires an application for a permit to drill, which then triggers an individual site assessment and engineering review of the well design.

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