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Environmentalists Blast Feds Over New Bakersfield Area Oil Leases



Photo of Kern County oil pumps set against a blue sky
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BAKERSFIELD — Oil and gas leases on federal public lands in California were put up for auction for the first time in eight years on Thursday, drawing protests from environmental organizations on grounds including threats to climate, human health and wildlife.

The seven parcels put up for bid by the Bureau of Land Management encompass more than 4,100 acres in Kern County.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation organization, blasted the Trump administration for going ahead with the auction amid ongoing legal disputes, saying Kern County is already one of the most polluted in the country.

Kassie Siegel, director of the center’s Climate Law Center, noted in a statement that it has been a year of “record-breaking fires and scorching temperatures” and expressed hope that President-elect Joe Biden will revoke the leases to protect the climate.

The center contends that parcels were opened up to auction through a flawed environmental review process that has been challenged in court.