The mandatory US federal budget cuts known as sequestration may seem like bad news for environmental programs. But there’s a green lining to government dysfunction: less money to carry out environmentally damaging policies.
Case in point: Citing the sequester, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has postponed pending lease sales for oil and gas exploration in California until at least October, when the new fiscal year begins. Those leases include 1,278 acres (517 hectares) of government land sitting atop the Monterey Shale, a vast geological formation that holds the US’s largest reserve of shale oil, an estimated 15.4 billion barrels.
The only way to extract that oil is through the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Environmentalists have already been trying to stop the sales by suing the BLM for not considering the environmental impacts of fracking, which involves injecting chemical-laced water under high pressure into wells to break up subterranean rock formations that contain oil and natural gas.
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