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Formal Protest Filed With BLM Against Nevada Fracking Proposal
LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal administrative protest (see PDF) on an upcoming oil and gas lease sale in Nevada that, according to the Bureau of Land Management, could open up more than 174,000 acres of public lands to fracking. The sale, slated for July 17, would offer up 102 areas near the towns of Tonopah and Austin in north-central Nevada.
“Fracking in other parts of this country has repeatedly shown the practice to be dangerous both for human health and the environment,” said Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist with the Center. “It poses an imminent threat to one of Nevada’s scarcest resources — water — as well as clean air and wildlife habitats. And of course it significantly adds to greenhouse gas pollution and exacerbates climate change.”
At a time when states across the country are considering banning fracking, Nevada is rushing to get started. Fracking, a risky practice where toxic fluid is injected underground under extreme pressure to break underlying rocks and release oil and gas, is technologically distinct from oil and gas production practices of the past and has greatly increased with industry interest in developing previously unrecoverable oil and gas deposits such as those in the proposed lease area in Nevada.
Fracking requires an enormous amount of water — typically between 2 million and 5.6 million gallons — for each well. The extraction of water for fracking can lower water tables, reducing water available to communities, hurting wildlife and industrializing wildlands. Nevada is the driest state in the union, and water is often in short supply.
Added to the water are sand and a toxic mix of chemicals, which by law oil and gas companies can keep secret. A congressional report sampling incomplete industry self-reports found that “[t]he oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are: (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.”1
Hazardous waste products of fracking include wastewater from the process and methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas up to 100 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide in affecting climate.
“The recently released National Climate Change Assessment makes it abundantly clear that the climate of the United States is already being hurt by human-induced changes and that that the situation will only get worse with time,” said Mrowka. “It’s human folly of the worst kind to add to the changes through more fracking, simply for the short-term economic gain of a few companies.”
The Center is calling on the BLM to cancel the Nevada lease sales as part of a nationwide shift toward safer energy sources.
“While water is scarce, sunshine is abundant in Nevada,” Mrowka said. “We should be ramping up investment in clean and well-planned geothermal, distributed solar and wind facilities here, because our citizens, environment and natural heritage deserve the best.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and on-line activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
1Waxman, Henry et al., United States House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Minority Staff, Chemicals used in Hydraulic Fracturing (Apr. 2011).