The local office of the federal Bureau of Land Management has again approved a Bakersfield company's plan to drill an oil well at the Carrizo Plain National Monument despite the objections of two environmental groups.
The well E&B Natural Resources Corp. proposes at the foot of the Caliente Range about a 100-minute drive from Bakersfield in southeastern San Luis Obispo County would be the first drilled at the monument since the area's 2001 proclamation by former President Bill Clinton.
The Bakersfield field office of the BLM originally approved the project March 16, 2018. The decision was appealed a month later by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity and Santa Barbara-based Los Padres Forest Watch. In July 2019, the BLM withdrew its approval.
Friday's reapproval came after the agency said it more fully addressed potential impacts it was accused of overlooking in 2018.
The two environmental groups say the project threatens to worsen global climate change, detracts from views of the area and potentially impacts threatened or endangered species.
They noted BLM's formal decision arrived on the day before a three-day weekend during a pandemic.
“While many of us are worried about basic needs during a time of crisis, the Trump administration is busy catering to the oil industry at the expense of people and the planet,” ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper said in a news release Tuesday.
The BLM said by email Wednesday it took a close, updated look at the project in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and determined it presents no significant impacts to the environment and is not likely to hurt any of the species listed by environmental groups.
It noted the project's roads, well pads and facilities have to be designed for minimal environmental impact. It added the oil project is located on a lease grandfathered into the monument's creation.
"Our analysis shows that this new well poses no undue health or safety concerns, has no significant impacts to the environment and is consistent with management directives for the Carrizo Plain National Monument," Serena Baker, a spokeswoman for the BLM in Central California, said by email.
E&B said by email Wednesday afternoon it has been fully supportive of the governmental review process, which it noted has continued for more than eight years.
The Carrizo Plain measures more than 240,000 acres. It contains one of California's largest remaining native grasslands.
The BLM noted its decision can be appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals within 30 days of Friday's approval.