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Oil rig pump jacks work the oil fields near the town of Maricopa, Calif. in March 2013. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on Friday plans to open about 720,000 acres of land in California’s central coast to oil and gas lease sales.

Why it matters: New federal land has not been freed up for fossil fuel extraction in the region since at least 2013, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Environmentalists say new oil rigs will hurt California's land and water and contribute to climate change. However, the Interior Department claims the expansion will help ensure the U.S. achieves energy independence and economic growth.

  • Some environmentalists are threatening to go to court over this decision.
  • BLM says, "The decision does not authorize any actual drilling for exploration or development of oil and gas resources."

Flashback: Two conservation groups sued the Interior Department nearly 6 years ago for failing to consider at the environmental impacts of fracking, per the Chronicle.

Details: Friday's decision immediately green-lights 14 drilling leases in San Benito, Monterey and Fresno counties. Each of those projects has been long-desired by fossil fuel companies interested in expanding, writes the Chronicle.

  • In total, the decision to move forward with the leasing plan makes 11 counties available for energy development.As a result, BLM officials estimate as many as 37 new oil and gas wells will be developed over the next 20 years.
  • Between state and private lands in the area, the region already has more than 18,000 wells, according to federal figures the Chronicle cited.
  • In a press release, BLM said it plans to support "recovery of threatened and endangered plants and animals."
  • There will not be any leases on designated BLM wilderness.

Thought bubble per Axios' Amy Harder: This is sure to further inflame already tense relations between the Trump administration and California, which are already fighting over the state’s ability to issue tougher fuel efficiency standards.

Go deeper: How the U.S. oil boom echoes through the economy

Go deeper

26 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.