After years of studying the environmental impacts of fracking, a decision this week by Bakersfield's office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management allows federal officials to resume leasing 1.2 million acres of public land in Kern and other parts of California for the purposes of oil and gas production.
The move, which was immediately criticized by climate-change activists, followed the release earlier this fall of an environmental review concluding the controversial well-completion technique also known as hydraulic fracturing poses no impacts that cannot be blunted by mitigation efforts.
The review fulfilled the BLM's pledge in 2017 to take another look at the consequences of fracking. Environmentalists say the practice endangers air and groundwater quality. The oil industry says there is no evidence of that happening in California.
No new public lands were opened to oil production or fracking as a result of the BLM's decision.
BLM has not conducted a lease auction on the subject properties since at least 2016.
The agency noted that such leases sustain about 3,500 jobs and generate $200 million per year in economic benefits. California gets half of the 12.5-percent royalty the BLM collects on oil and gas royalties in the state, while the other half goes to the U.S. Treasury.