Center for Biological Diversity / EcoWatch & Nation of Change & Chris D’Angelo / The Huffington Post – 2017-11-17 02:13:29
Massive Fracking on Nevada Public Lands
Sought by Trump Administration,
Conservation Groups Launch Legal Protest
Center for Biological Diversity / EcoWatch & Nation of Change
(November 15, 2017) — Three conservation groups filed an administrative protest Monday against an enormous Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction, scheduled for Dec. 12, that would allow fracking on more than 600 square miles of Nevada public lands. The 388,000 acres in eastern Nevada includes important regional springs and groundwater and critical habitat for imperiled species.
The protest â€“ filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildLands Defense and Basin and Range Watch â€“ says the BLM has violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act by failing to analyze the risks of drilling for oil and fracking with dangerous chemicals on such a massive scale.
Development of these parcels, one of the largest fracking plans in the country, could contaminate ground and surface water, threaten endangered species and cause irreparable harm to the global climate.
“The Trump administration is putting some of Nevada’s most critical water supplies at risk of fracking pollution by auctioning off this public land to oil companies,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Nevada state director. “This plan reeks of callous disregard for our state’s water and wildlife. Trump’s BLM is flagrantly violating our nation’s environmental laws to line the pockets of the fossil-fuel industry. ”
Regulations require the BLM to fully analyze and disclose harm from any federal actions, including developing public land for oil and gas extraction. Instead, BLM dismisses as “speculative” the possibility that drilling and fracking would damage Nevada’s precious water resources.
Nevada hydrologist Tom Myers analyzed the effects of drilling and fracking in the sensitive groundwater basins of eastern Nevada. Myers concluded that “fracking development in the proposed lease area threatens the hydrogeology of the area, including regional springs and intermittent and perennial streams; potential impacts include both contamination and depletion of flow.”
“Fracking on our public lands could contaminate Nevada’s precious groundwater and dry up vital springs and creeks,” said Katie Fite, director of public lands for WildLands Defense. “Before they auction off our lands to the highest bidder, the BLM is legally required to be honest with the public about the effects of fracking on our water and climate.”
In addition to jeopardizing water resources, the proposed lease auction includes lands designated as protected critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise, Nevada’s state reptile.
“The BLM is proposing to auction off some of the best tortoise habitat in Nevada, which could help drive this vulnerable creature to extinction,” said Laura Cunningham, executive director of Basin and Range Watch. “The agency is flagrantly ignoring the Endangered Species Act by allowing this sale to proceed.”
In September, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against a BLM Nevada oil and gas lease auction in the Battle Mountain District.
“We won’t let the BLM sell off our public lands without a fight,” said Donnelly. “We must hold this administration accountable for protecting our waters, wildlife and climate.”
The Center for Biological Diversity (Center), based in Tucson, Arizona, is a nonprofit membership organization with approximately 625,000 members and online activists, known for its work protecting endangered species through legal action, scientific petitions, creative media and grassroots activism. The Center has offices and staff in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont, Florida and Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1989 by Kieran Suckling, Peter Galvin, Todd Schulke and Robin Silver.
Drilling In America’s ‘Crown Jewel’ Is Indefensible,
Former Interior Officials Say
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be off limits
Chris D’Angelo / The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of former Interior Department officials is urging members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to oppose the latest Republican-led effort to open a portion of a pristine Alaska wildlife refuge to oil and gas development.
“Some places are just too special to drill,” officials from the Nixon, George W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations wrote in a Tuesday letter to the panel.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the committee, introduced legislation last week that would require that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke approve at least two lease sales for drilling — each no less than 400,000 acres — in the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Murkowski said the Congressional Budget Office estimates the move would bring in slightly more than $1 billion in federal revenue over the next decade, although that figure has been widely disputed.
The signees said they are “deeply concerned at the prospect of oil development” on the coastal plain, also known as the 1002 Area. Drilling, they said, “risks significant damage to this national, cultural and ecological treasure, and it is currently a needless risk,” as a glut of supply and the low price of oil make “economic arguments for risking this incredible resource ring hollow.”
The group describes the refuge, which covers more than 19 million acres in northeastern Alaska, as “among the world’s most important ecological resources.” The region is home to polar bears, moose and hundreds of species of migratory birds, and serves as the calving ground for Porcupine caribou.
Murkowski and the Trump administration have touted the economic benefits that would come from drilling in the refuge. In announcing her bill last week, Murkowski called the proposal “a tremendous opportunity” for the country.
At a hearing in early November, she said Alaskans have waited decades for the right technologies to come along in order to ensure the environment would remain protected.
In 1980, with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Congress expanded ANWR but opted not to give wilderness status to the 1002 Area, setting it aside for potential oil and gas development. Granting leases for that purpose, however, requires an act of Congress.
The Senate budget plan includes a provision that requires Murkowski’s committee to find $1 billion in additional revenue over the next decade to help pay for tax reform.
As a result, Murkowski’s legislation requires just a simple 51-vote majority to pass in the Senate, rather than the 60 typically needed to avoid a filibuster, because it is part of Congress’ 2018 budget plan that is being considered under special “reconciliation” provisions.
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the committee’s ranking Democrat, other members of her party and environmental groups have blasted the passage rules for Murkowski’s bill. They accuse her and other Alaska lawmakers of circumventing the normal legislative process and putting short-term economic gains over environmental protection.
The group of former Interior leaders argue that drilling for oil in the coastal plain “is ethically, environmentally, and economically untenable.”
“As former officials at the Department of the Interior, we know our public lands intimately, having travelled, studied, managed and championed these incomparable lands and waters,” their letter reads. “In our view, there is no place like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and no place more deserving of protection for future generations of Americans. Some places are just too special to drill. We call on you to defend our natural heritage and native Alaskan culture by protecting our most vital national wildlife refuge.”
The letter is signed by Nathaniel Reed, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks under President Richard Nixon: Lyle Laverty, assistant secretary for FWP under President George W. Bush; Donald Barry, assistant secretary for FWP under President Bill Clinton: Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service under Clinton; Steve Williams, director of USFWS under Bush; and Dan Ashe, director of USFWS under President Barack Obama.
Read the full letter below:
Re: Please Oppose Oil Development
In the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
November 14, 2017
Dear Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Member: The signatories to this letter are Republican, Democrat, and Independent. We have been confirmed by the US Senate as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, or as Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
We have all visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and are all deeply concerned at the prospect of oil development on the Refuge’s coastal plain (the area known as 1002). At nearly 20 million acres, the Arctic Refuge is a crown jewel among America’s public lands, and we believe oil development in this area is ethically, environmentally, and economically untenable. The native Gwich’in people call the Refuge’s 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.”
It is vital breeding habitat for millions-upon-millions of birds that migrate from every state and six of the earth’s seven continents. It is calving ground for the 200,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd, which has migrated to the refuge, each year, for millennia. It is among the planet’s most important denning habitats for polar bears.
Those who know this spectacular place, including the Alaskan natives who have lived there for thousands of years understand it is the refuge’s biological heart, and among the world’s most important ecological resources.
Although we support responsible energy development and energy security for our nation, oil exploration and development risks significant damage to this national, cultural and ecological treasure, and it is currently a needless risk.
US crude oil production has risen to more than 9.3 million barrels a day, up 850,000 barrels daily since September 2016, pushing oil prices to historical lows and making economic arguments for risking this incredible resource ring hollow.
Simply put, we don’t need to develop the Arctic Refuge — one of the costliest, and riskiest places to develop energy resources — to promote American energy security.
We all have substantial experience in balancing economic development and environmental protection. We know the need and value of thoughtful compromise. We have the experience to recognize the opposite. Proponents of development argue that more than $1 billion in US Treasury revenue will result from developing the Refuge Coastal Plain.
These estimates strain Americans’ trust. They are predicated on the following actions: that Congress change the law to reallocate leasing revenue, that every acre of the Coastal Plain would be auctioned, that lease bids would fetch more than six times the recent average price of oil-bearing lands on Alaskaâ€™s
North Slope, and that companies would immediately begin drilling and paying royalties.
Realistically, revenues may only amount to millions, misleading American taxpayers.
As former officials at the Department of the Interior, we know our public lands intimately, having travelled, studied, managed and championed these incomparable lands and waters.
In our view, there is no place like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and no place more deserving of protection for future generations of Americans.
Some places are just too special to drill.
We call on you to defend our natural heritage and native Alaskan culture by protecting our most vital national wildlife refuge.
Thank you for your consideration.
Nathaniel Reed, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, President Richard Nixon
Lyle Laverty, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, President George W. Bush
Donald Barry, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, President William Clinton
Jamie Rappaport Clark. US Fish and Wildlife Service Director, President William Clinton
Steve Williams, US Fish and Wildlife Service Director, President George W. Bush
Daniel M. Ashe, US Fish and Wildlife Service Director, President Barack Obama
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