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80,000 Acres of Land in Southern Nevada up for Fracking

By Deep Green Resistance Great Basin

Antifracking02

Editors note: this post comes from the folks at Save Nevada’s Water: Ban Fracking In Nevada. While the comment period for the BLM ends soon, public pressure and action against these projects can continue to be effective even afterwards. After all, these are supposed to be federal lands and federal agencies – we’re supposed to be in charge, not the corporations.

For those of you that haven’t heard already, the Nevada BLM has put out an environmental assessment on 80,00 acres of land they are opening up for oil and gas lease sale only a few moments away from Mesquite, and the Virgin River that drains into Lake Mead.

There is a comment period out until the 24th of July. We urge you to comment now and have your friends comment too. We have a goal of 10,000 comments in opposition to this gas oil lease sale. Please help us by copying and pasting the letter below onto this link https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/comments/commentSubmission.do?commentPeriodId=26082

And if you are willing please email the above letter to eyfoweb@blm.gov, or call the Ely district office at 775-289-1800 and provide your comments over the phone.

Letter to BLM Ely District Office Regarding the 24th of July Comment Period for the Environmental Assessment

Dear Ely District Office of the Nevada BLM,

I write to you today as a member and supporter of Save Nevada’s Water: Ban Fracking in Nevada, Nevadan’s Against Fracking, and as a concerned citizen to comment on what a horrible idea it is to frack in the area currently slated for gas and oil lease sales along the Southern/ Northern Border of the Ely and Southern Nevada BLM districts in Nevada that is also nestled in the Virgin River Valley.

The area as your assessment puts it “is a rock formation found within the analysis area are indicative of a continental plate margin converging with an oceanic plate.” The quoted line indicates that you are allowing the fracking of areas that are riddled with fault lines. These fault lines will only increase the certainty of contamination of our precious ground water and surface water resources. The area slated for fracking is also directly connected to the Virgin River itself which ultimately drains into Lake Mead. This further compounds complications that will arise from contamination as Lake Mead serves as the only drinking water supply of Las Vegas. The fact also remains that the state of Nevada does not require the full disclosure of the chemicals used in Fracking, which will also mean that neither you the BLM, nor the public will know what is being put into our water, and how to monitor it if at all. Furthermo re your assessment does not explicitly include details of how deep the water table goes in the area, where the fault lines of the area are, what level of interconnectivity there is between the Virgin and Muddy Rivers and the aquifers in the area. We have to assume that you the BLM will be relying on the oil and gas developers to do the aforementioned leg work, which is simply dangerously irresponsible and reckless.

Your assessment with regards to what fracking will do to the local flora and fauna is also lacking. Your assessment does not include any information as to the effects this lease will have on native migratory birds of the area. You rely only on the hope that oil and gas developers will adhere to existing regulations and assume that will be enough to protect sensitive species. The aquifers in the area feed water into the Virgin and Muddy Rivers which house endangered species, not just threatened or protected species, and you make no mention on the safeguards against contamination, and or an action plan for when contamination occurs. The area is also part of desert tortoise habitat. Besides the harm this lease sale will result in for the local ecology, there will be profound effects to humans in the rest of Southern Nevada.

If the fact that we are in a historic drought, and that the water that will be used for these drilling projects is coming from our own ground water is not enough reason to not permit the lease of these lands, then what about the protection of historic and cultural resources? The areas slated for drilling are also in the Moapa Valley, home to the Moapa Band of Paiutes. The area deserves to be free of this sort of irreparable damaging process. Your assessment states that “Less than 10% of the Ely District has been adequately inventoried for cultural resources.” And your report goes on to say “The lease of oil and gas parcels does not entail ground disturbing activities as part of the undertaking. Therefore, this undertaking would not result in impacts to Cultural Resources.” The above quoted statement is completely false and should be retracted. I would even goes as far enough to say that the person that wrote that line in the assessment should be fired, and put under investigation for corruption as I am certain they are on the take of some oil or gas company. In order to even get to the area to set up rigs, there has to be surface disturbance. What the frack is wrong with the person that wrote this section of the assessment?

I urge the Ely District of the Nevada BLM to reconsider the need to even offer these lands for oil and gas lease sales, and instead stop any and all gas lease sales until the process of fracking has been banned by the Nevada Legislature or Congress, therefore saving much of Nevada’s precious groundwater resources, and making the BLM good stewards of the land they can and should be. The BLM has many other issues to address like drought, cataloging cultural resources, ecological studies, and brushfires. Gas and oil lease sales should not be one of the priorities of the Nevada BLM. The fact is that the administration of the BLM can simply ignore the push from certain legislators and industry to lease land for oil and gas development. If the BLM of Nevada stops issuing these gas and oil lease sales, you will have the support of the people of Nevada in your decision to do so.

I appreciate your consideration of my comments, and respectfully ask that you stop giving a frack about the people and entities that are pushing you to hold these gas oil lease sales and act on the behalf of the public to be the best stewards of the land we the public, your real bosses want you to be.

Kindest regards,

YOUR NAME

Resistance Radio: A discussion on oil and gas drilling in the West.

The landscape of the rocky mountain west has been transformed on a scale unimaginable by oil and gas industries into a giant fossil fuel factory spanning tens of thousands of square miles.

We are under siege.

Derrick Jensen interviews Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians on Resistance Radio: A discussion on oil and gas drilling in the West.

Listen to the interview below, listen at our Deep Green Resistance Youtube channel, or browse all Resistance Radio episodes.

The Mother of All Anti-Fracking Tools

The first county in the United States to outlaw fracking has an idea that could give environmentalists the upper hand—and deliver a major setback to big oil.

By: Jacob Baynham, Outside Magazine, June 2014

blowout-fracking

Mora County, New Mexico, a patchwork of prairie, foothills, and high peaks on the east flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, unemployment stands at 16 percent, county workers operate out of leaky temporary buildings, and the population density is so low—just two people per square mile—that the tiny community and its largest town, 300-person Wagon Mound, are still classified as frontier by state health officials.

In short, Mora isn’t the kind of place that comes to mind for a national showdown on fracking. But in April 2013, county commissioners took center stage in the fight by passing the Community Water Rights and Local Self-Governance Ordinance, which declared it illegal for companies to extract hydrocarbons anywhere in the county, making Mora the first in the U.S. to ban oil and gas drilling outright, on public and private land.

Not surprisingly, lawsuits soon followed. The county was sued in federal district court in Albuquerque late last year by theIndependent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM) and three local property owners. In January, a second suit was filed by Shell Western, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s sixth-largest oil company.

The likely outcome? Busy lawyers. But the suits could also set a nationwide precedent by settling an interesting argument: Does a community’s right to self-governance trump the rights of corporations? The county ordinance’s basic aim is to protect the water supply in a parched region of a drought-stricken state, but it also contains a bill of rights for the environment, which argues that natural ecosystems “possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist.”

The lawsuit by Royal Dutch Shell claims that Mora County’s rule denies the company its constitutional rights, chief among them corporate personhood, which states that a business has the same rights as an individual. (The controversial Citizens United Supreme Court ruling cemented corporations’ constitutional right to free speech.)

“This ordinance denies our property interest by declaring to criminalize virtually any activity undertaken by a corporation relating to oil and gas exploration and production,” says Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell.

Some environmentalists say that’s the whole point and are eager to test it. The ordinance was drafted with help from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania nonprofit. CELDF cofounder Thomas Linzey acknowledges that provisions in the document contradict existing laws, but he relishes the chance to defend the self-governance statute before a judge. As the case goes into litigation, tiny Mora County, which doesn’t even have a stoplight, could help usher in a series of similar laws, and CELDF is working hard to ensure that this happens. It’s a fight Big Green groups have failed to take up, says Linzey, so it’s being waged at the grassroots level.

“Environmental folks don’t seem to give a shit,” he says. “They complain that the existing laws, which are stacked against us, are the only tools we have. We say maybe you should invent some new tools, because you’re not protecting anything.”

Banning oil and gas extraction under the purview of local government isn’t new. In 2010, Pittsburgh became the first city to ban fracking, which uses high-pressure water and chemicals to release oil and gas from subterranean shale deposits. Since then, more than 400 municipalities have instituted similar resolutions. The bans have mostly come in the form of zoning changes that keep the industry outside city limits.

But gas companies don’t drill in cities; they drill in the areas around them. That’s what makes Mora County’s ordinance unique. It bans energy extraction from a huge undeveloped area, nearly 1.2 million acres of rolling prairie, piñon and ponderosa forests, and 13,000-foot peaks.

“The oil and gas industry felt like it could contain these sorts of initiatives on a city-by-city scale,” says Eric Jantz, a staff attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which is defending Mora County in the suit brought by IPANM. “But once you start getting into countywide prohibitions, that’s something the oil and gas industry has bigger concerns about.”

John Olivas, the Mora County commission chairman who helped pass the ordinance, says county commissioners voted for the sweeping legislation because regulations and zoning rules—typical anti-fracking tools—are simple loopholes that the industry would one day march through. “If the price is right for these corporations,” he says, “they’re coming.”

Karin Foster, the executive director of IPANM, counters that Mora County has been commandeered by a rogue environmental group. “This community-rights ordinance appeals to uneducated people in small communities that feel like they need to fight the man,” Foster says. “I don’t think the people leading them have their interests in mind.”

Some locals agree. Mora County is 80 percent Hispanic, and many residents are suspicious of Anglo groups coming in with an agenda, be it industrial or environmental. “That’s a real missionary attitude, to come into a place and say, ‘We’re going to protect you,’ ” says Sofia Martinez, an environmental -justice activist from Wagon Mound. Martinez opposes fracking, but she wishes that the county had taken a regulatory approach, one that didn’t expose it to potentially lengthy and expensive lawsuits. (Though the county has pro bono representation, by CELDF, among others, it may have to pay damages if it loses.)

Mora County’s case is likely to take years to resolve. Any ruling will almost assuredly be appealed, moving the case to the Tenth Circuit Court in Denver. But for now, Mora has become a cause célèbre, with other counties—like San Miguel, in New Mexico, and Johnson, in Illinois—considering similar bans. Cities and counties are now even working on community ordinances outlawing things like factory farms and GMO crops.

“We’ve all heard about Mora County,” says Sandra Steingraber, one of the nation’s most outspoken anti-fracking activists and author of Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis. Steingraber has been watching the fight all the way from upstate New York, where she’s battling at the township level. “The science is certainly on our side, and it points to the need for a nationwide ban,” Steingraber says. “Now we’ll see if the law ends up on our side.”

SW Energy responsible for oil spill in Green River–second spill from old well

First Published May 28 2014 07:16 pm • Last Updated May 29 2014 02:03 pm

It likely will take crews another week to finish scraping oil-contaminated dirt and rocks from Salt Wash, a dry streambed on public land 12 miles south of Green River that was filled with thousands of barrels of an oil-water mix when an oil well failed last week.

Heavy rainfall Friday night breached the emergency dams erected to contain the oil, and a small amount flowed into the Green River, said an on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Curtis Kimbel, from the EPA’s Region 8 office in Denver, said he arrived Saturday after crews had stopped the flow into the river.

He was told by those working to contain the spill that only a small amount — a matter of gallons, rather than barrels — reached the river, which is running high with the spring runoff, he said.

“The important thing is once it was discovered, modifications were put into place to make sure no more got into the river,” Kimbel said Wednesday. “We’re confident the material is now contained in the wash.”

Oil spill sheen on Green River

Oil spill sheen on Green River. Photo by Jim Collar.

Beth Ransel, Moab field manager for the Bureau of Land Management, said BLM technicians are inspecting the river banks, and the National Park Service plans to float the river to inspect it for any residue in the water or along the banks.

While it’s unknown how much oil made it into the river, she said, those on site believe it was small because there were only small pools of oil and oil-coated rocks left when the severe rains hit.

The conclusion that only a small amount reached the river is being challenged by at least one area resident, Jim Collar, a software developer based in Moab who was camping on the rim above the Green River Friday night.

Collar shot photos of what he and his friends believe was oil film from the rim of Labyrinth Canyon at the Bow Knot, a famous bend on the Green River.

“On Saturday morning when I got up, I took my camera to the canyon rim to take some pictures. I was startled to find this oil sheen on the river,” which was about 1,000 feet below, he said. “It was very visible. It was river wide, wall to wall. It was there when we left the next day.”

The spot is 15 to 20 river miles downstream from where Salt Wash enters the Green.

John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers and the Colorado Riverkeeper, said, “This pollution is unacceptable,” and called it a sign that oil companies and their regulators are not doing their jobs.

The Green River joins the Colorado River downstream from the spill, flows into Lake Powell, through the Grand Canyon, into Lake Mead and onto the farms of California’s Imperial Valley and into the taps of millions of people in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said.

“Is this a drinking water system or not? It is. Start acting like it,” he said. “Protect our watersheds. The people downstream need to know that.”

Kimbel said it’s not clear how much oil and water escaped after the rupture, which was discovered May 21. The 45-year-old well belongs to SW Energy of Salt Lake City. The company did not immediately return a phone call left at its office on Wednesday.

According to the BLM, an estimated 80 to 100 barrels of the oil-water mixture streamed, each hour, into the Salt Wash about four miles from where it reaches the Green River. The flow continued for 30 hours before crews were able to dump in several truckloads of a high-density mud to seal the well Thursday afternoon.

Based on those estimates, the spill could have been 2,560 to 3,000 barrels, or up to 126,000 gallons of the oil-water mixture. Ransel at the BLM, however, cautioned against such a conclusion. “There are a lot of unknowns about the amount coming out of the well,” she said.

The well operator had used vacuum trucks to suck up much of the spilled oil-water mixture by Thursday, and built berms and placed absorbent materials in the wash to prevent the oil from reaching the Green River.

Heavy rain Friday night, however, breached the dams closest to the river. Rainwater rushed over the oil-coated rocks and picked up small pools of oil that were in the wash about a mile or so from the river, according to Ransel and the BLM’s updates about the spill on its website. The BLM oversees the oil lease and the surrounding land.

New dams stopped the flow Saturday, and those did not fail during rainstorms that night, Kimbel said.

Kimbel said he and representatives from SW Energy, the BLM and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining “walked the entire area several times” and came up with a strategy to remove all contaminated material from the wash.

There are no culinary wells in the area, he said.

A number of pieces of heavy equipment are now working in the wash to remove rock, sand and dirt, which will be taken to a landfill certified to take such contaminated material.

New Proposals for Gas Drilling at Ouray Refuge in Utah

The Colorado Pikeminnow is an endangered fish that inhabits the Colorado River. A pair of proposals to drill oil and gas wells at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge are up for review through early April. The refuge in eastern Utah is already home to a half-dozen active wells, four endangered fish species, and rare cacti.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A pair of proposals to drill oil and gas wells at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge are up for review through early April. The refuge in eastern Utah is already home to a half-dozen active wells, four endangered fish species and rare cacti.

SALT LAKE CITY — While a national wildlife refuge may appear to be an improbable location to drill for natural gas or oil, two companies are seeking to do just that at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Utah.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released assessments on the proposals and is seeking input from the public through April 8.

Development of the wells at the nearly 12,000-acre refuge can happen because the federal government owns the land but not the subsurface mineral rights.

Over the past decade, several wells have been developed, tapping mineral rights owned by the Ute Tribe, private individuals or the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

The Utah situation is not an anomaly. The federal agency manages oil and gas operations on one-fourth of the 558 national wildlife refuges in the system. The refuge in Utah is already home to at least a half-dozen active wells involving state-owned mineral rights.

In this instance, the environmental assessment on the proposal by Thurston Energy Operating Co. is to spend a year developing two oil and gas wells on two pads, each about 1.6 acres. The wells would be drilled to a depth of 7,000 feet and have an operational life of 30 to 40 years before being reclaimed.

Another proposal by Ultra Resources Inc. encompasses the drilling and operation of nine oil and gas wells from five pad locations, each at 1.6 acres. An environmental assessment has also been released on Ultra’s proposal, which features a project area of 1,659 acres, including 1,376 acres on refuge property.

Both assessments include mitigation measures the companies must take to offset impacts, including effects on wildlife such as nesting raptors and thriving deer populations. The federal government is also requiring steps to minimize air pollution given the Uintah Basin’s trouble with high ozone levels in the wintertime.

The refuge was established in the 1960s and serves as a “genetic” haven for the four listed Colorado River endangered fish: the razorback sucker, the Colorado pikeminnow, the humpback chub and the bonytail chub. An endangered species of cactus is also found there. It includes a diverse ecosystem made up of forests, wetlands, 12 miles of the Green River and grasslands.

The service notes it is obligated to provide maximum protection of the refuge but provide mineral owners reasonable access and exploration rights to their mineral estates.

A paper copy of the assessments can be reviewed at the Ouray NWR Office at HC 69, 19001 Wildlife Refuge Road, Randlett, UT 84063. Comments should be submitted in writing by mail to the Ouray NWR Office or by email to sonja_jahrsdoerfer@fws.gov.

More information on the proposals is available by calling the refuge office at 435-545-2522.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

Original article byAmy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 

Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Fracking Found in Colorado River

The Colorado River flows through the town of Rifle in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo (taken 1972) by David Hiser,courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Flickr/Creative Commons.

The Colorado River flows through the town of Rifle in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo (taken 1972) by David Hiser, courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Flickr/Creative Commons.

Original article by Sandra Postel, National Geographic

 

This week, more evidence came in that hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) poses potentially serious risks to drinking water quality and human health.

A team of researchers from the University of Missouri found evidence of hormone-disrupting activity in water located near fracking sites – including samples taken from the Colorado River near a dense drilling region of western Colorado.

The Colorado River is a source of drinking water for more than 30 million people.

The peer-reviewed study was published this week in the journal Endocrinology.

Fracking is the controversial process of blasting water mixed with sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure so as to fracture rock and release the oil and gas it holds. It has made previously inaccessible fossil fuel reserves economical to tap, and drilling operations have spread rapidly across the country.

The University of Missouri team found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the fracking process are “endocrine disrupters” – compounds that can affect the human hormonal system and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and infertility.

“More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” said Dr. Susan Nagel, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, in a news release.

“With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”

The research team collected samples from ground water and surface water from sites in Garfield County, Colorado, where fracking fluids had accidentally spilled, as well as from the nearby Colorado River, into which local streams and groundwater drain. They also took samples from other areas of Garfield County where little drilling has taken place, as well as from a county in Missouri where there had been no drilling at all.

They found that the samples from the spill site had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and the Colorado River samples had moderate levels.  The other two samples, taken from areas with little or no drilling activity, showed low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity.

The new findings add urgency to calls for moratoriums on fracking until the risks have been fully assessed and regulations and monitoring put in place to safeguard water supplies and public health.

Due to the so-called “Halliburton loophole,” the oil and gas industry is exempt from important requirements under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and states have been slow to fill the regulatory gap.

Colorado, in particular, should exercise the utmost caution.

According to a report by Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit organization that educates investors about corporate environmental risks, 92 percent of Colorado’s shale gas and oil wells are located in “extremely high” water stress regions, defined as areas in which cities, industries and farms are already using 80 percent or more of available water.

Adding contamination risks to the high volume of water fracking wells require – typically 4-6 million gallons per well – argues strongly for a precautionary approach to future development and a pause in existing production until the full range of environmental health risks can be assessed.

But Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has said the state will sue any city that bans fracking within its borders.  Indeed, in July 2012, the state sued the front-range town of Longmont, which had issued such a ban.

A statement about the new findings of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in waters near fracking sites issued by Concerned Health Professionals of New York, and posted here, concludes with this warning:

“These results, which are based on validated cell cultures, demonstrate that public health concerns about fracking are well-founded and extend to our hormone systems. The stakes could not be higher. Exposure to EDCs has been variously linked to breast cancer, infertility, birth defects, and learning disabilities. Scientists have identified no safe threshold of exposure for EDCs, especially for pregnant women, infants, and children.”

And environmental health expert Sandra Steingraber writes in a letter posted at the same site:

“[I]t seems to me, the ethical response on the part of the environmental health community is to reissue a call that many have made already:  hit the pause button via a national moratorium on high volume, horizontal drilling and fracking and commence a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment with full public participation.”