For Immediate Release, June 12, 2014
BLM Approval of Fracking Project on Public Land Jeopardizes
Human Health, Nevada's Environment
LAS VEGAS— The Bureau of Land Management in Nevada has just approved an oil and gas project that would use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands that provide important habitat for the imperiled greater sage grouse and other wildlife. Noble Energy’s Mary’s River Project will drill 20 wells on BLM-managed public lands four miles northwest of Wells, Nev. The total project area encompasses 20,622 acres — about 52 percent of which is administered by the federal agency, with the remainder in private ownership.
“Fracking on these sensitive public lands in Nevada could threaten human health and our spectacular natural heritage,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Use of this polluting technology so close to human habitation is fraught with danger, which is why many states and municipalities are fighting to ban fracking.”
Fracking is a controversial form of oil and gas extraction that involves blasting huge volumes of water, mixed with toxic chemicals and sand, deep into the earth to break up rock formations. One study identified more than 25 percent of reported fracking chemicals as known carcinogens. Other fracking chemicals harm the immune and cardiovascular systems and can contribute to serious health problems in people and animals living near fracked wells.
A new Center report about fracking in California found that more than 40 toxic air-polluting chemicals are routinely used in large quantities by oil companies engaged in fracking and other extreme extraction methods. In northeastern Utah there has been a surge in infant deaths that some health experts suspect is linked to an increase in oil and gas industry emissions. According to Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, the rate of neonatal mortality appears to have climbed from about average in 2010 to six times the national average in 2013.
Fracking has been tied to contamination of surface and groundwaters; well water from household taps in some areas can be set on fire because of methane contamination in the water supply.
In a May 2014 report, the Government Accountability Office found that BLM oversight of the oil and gas industry is severely lacking, with 4 in 10 new wells identified as higher pollution risks escaping federal inspection.
The controversial technique — currently unregulated and unmonitored by state officials — is being proposed for use on more than hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands overseen by the BLM in central Nevada.
A typical hydraulic fracturing process uses between 1.2 and 3.5 million gallons of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million gallons. This water often resurfaces as “flowback,” which is often highly polluted by fracking chemicals as well as radioactive materials from fractured shale.
In many areas of the country, fracking has resulted in an expansion of gas- or oilfield development, which can result in land degradation and habitat fragmentation for rare and endangered species.
“The area of this proposed project has been identified by the Nevada Department of Wildlife as essential and irreplaceable habitat for the greater sage grouse, a species being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act,” Mrowka said. “The last thing these rare, spectacular birds need is gas development in their habitat.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.