On August 29, the Center for Biological Diversity served the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with notice of intent to sue for BLM’s failure to reinitiate consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) relating to oil and gas leases and drilling permits issued in California.  The notice alleges that BLM has continued to authorize fracking activities in California based on outdated biological opinions that fail to evaluate the impact of new fracking techniques on listed species.  If BLM does not reinitiate ESA consultation and “halt ongoing oil and gas leasing and drilling activities” with 60 days of the notice, the Center indicates it will file a citizen suit under the ESA.

The ESA requires federal agencies to consult with the federal fish and wildlife services (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service) to ensure that any action that the agency authorizes, funds or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any species listed as threatened or endangered.  BLM did initially consult with the services relating to its issuance of oil and gas leases and drilling permits as required under the ESA.  However, the Center alleges that BLM is now required to reinitiate consultation under the ESA because “new and intensified drilling techniques,” described as fracking, have so increased the economic feasibility and the associated environmental risks of drilling as to result in “(1) new information revealing that the action may have effects not previously considered or (2) modification of the action not previously considered.” 

The notice calls out BLM’s Hollister and Bakersfield field offices, which issue leases and permits for activities on BLM-administered lands overlying the Monterey Shale.  In the notice, the Center alleges that fracking in this area impacts habitats for five listed species in particular – the California condor, the San Joaquin kit fox, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, steelhead and the giant kangaroo rat.

Co-authored by Michael N. Mills and Robin B. Seifried.