Trump's Drilling Attack on California Public Lands

The Problem

The Trump administration waged an assault on our climate, hellbent on handing over public lands across the country to fossil fuel CEOs. Such a “drill, baby, drill” agenda flies in the face of science showing that any new fossil fuel development is incompatible with averting catastrophic climate change.

In California the ravages of climate inaction and continued oil production already hit close to home. Toxic air. Poisoned water. Raging fires. Rising seas. Deadly drought. Then Trump threatened to reopen millions of acres of public land and mineral estate to oil drilling and fracking. This destructive move would break a more than five-year-old moratorium on leasing federal public lands in California to oil companies, the result of our hard-fought legal victories.

Due to the fracking boom, the United States is now on track to account for 60 percent of the world’s projected growth in oil and gas production, and the fact is that our carbon budget is already overspent. [1] There’s simply no room for new fossil fuel extraction if the world is to keep global temperatures in line with Paris climate goals. Carbon emissions from reserves in the world’s already developed oil and gas fields alone would take the world beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming and result in climate catastrophe.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Developed Fossil Fuel Reserves, Compared to Carbon Budgets (as of Jan. 2018) Within Range of the Paris Goals [2]

CO2 Emissions From Developed Fossil Fuel Reserves, Compared to Carbon Budgets (as of Jan. 2018) Within Range of the Paris Goals

The Solution

To ensure a livable climate and protect communities, ecosystems and wildlife species — from California condors to San Joaquin kit foxes — we must stop new oil and gas drilling in California. The state needs to commit to a plan to phase out existing operations as quickly as possible.

We must prevent anyone from lifting the moratorium and opening millions of acres of California’s federal public lands to dangerous drilling.

We must block any attack on California’s federal public lands to avert climate chaos and raise the national bar for climate leadership where it needs to be — keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Our Strategy

Together with allies we’ve used legal challenges to block oil and gas leasing on California’s federal public lands since 2013. If need be, you can be sure, we will sue over any decision to reopen leasing.

As part of our national push to keep it in the ground, we hope to make California the first place to end federal leasing for good.

That’s why we’re calling on California’s communities and state and local leaders to throw their weight with us against Trump’s dangerous assault on our communities, wildlife and climate.

Trump’s Drilling Attack

Trump took aim at two regions that account for a huge part of the state’s public lands and federal mineral rights:

  • The Bureau of Land Management has started the process to open over a million acres of public land and mineral estate along California’s coast and in the Central Valley to drilling and fracking. The BLM refers to this area as the “Bakersfield” BLM region. This region includes Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.
  • The BLM is also finalizing a plan that would open about 400,000 acres of public land and mineral estate to new oil and gas leasing in several Central California counties, including Monterey and San Benito. The BLM refers to this area as the “Central Coast” region.

Map of Affected Areas

Click here or on the image below to check out our interactive map.

California BLM leasing map


1. Trout, Kelly, Drilling Toward Disaster: Why U.S. Oil and Gas Expansion is Incompatible with Climate Limits, Oil Change International (2019),
2. Trout, Drilling Toward Disaster, p. 5.

California condors flying above Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge by Loren Chipman/Flickr