Moratorium on new oil, gas leases sparks economic concerns for 3 Central Valley lawmakers

In response to the recent settlement between the State of California and the Bureau of Land Management, Rep. David Valadao (CA-21), Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) and Congresswoman Connie Conway (CA-22) composed and sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office to address their concerns about the economic impacts.

The settlement places a federal moratorium on new oil and gas leases in Central California until the BLM conducts a supplemental environmental review on the impacts of oil and gas drilling.

The lawsuit, which was filed in January of 2020, was designed to challenge a Trump-era plan to open up more than 1 million acres of public lands in Central California to oil and gas drilling, which would include hydraulic fracturing (fracking), without conducting an adequate environmental review of the plan’s impacts on California’s resources and residents, according to the release.

“Fracking is dangerous for our communities, damaging to our environment, and out of step with California’s climate goals,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “The Trump Administration recklessly opened Central California up to new oil and gas drilling without considering how fracking can hurt communities by causing polluted groundwater, toxic air emissions, minor earthquakes, climate impacts, and more. In keeping with the Bureau of Land Management’s mission to preserve the health of our public lands, it must reassess this Trump-Era mistake.”

The last environmental review conducted in 2019 was based on the best available science and went through a public notice and comment period, according to officials.

Reportedly, the oil and gas industry contributed over $80 million to Kern County in terms of annual property taxes in fiscal year 2018-19; over $103 million for local school districts; and over $12 million for local special districts for a total of almost $200 million per year. 

The lawmakers highlighted the detrimental economic impact of banning oil and gas production in the Central Valley as stated in the letter sent to Newsom, “The industry is also responsible for billions of dollars in state and local tax revenue that funds vital community services like public schools, hospitals, and law enforcement across the state,” the lawmakers stated. “We hope you consider the detrimental economic impact that over-regulation and rushed removal of this industry will have across our region and state.”

The members also highlighted the national security risk of further restricting California’s ability to produce traditional energy sources using global examples. 

“We have seen other nations around the world attempt to only rely on renewable fuels too quickly and they are left with unstable grids and are forced to turn to their adversaries for more reliable fuels. That is not a position we want to find ourselves in,” the members wrote.