Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 9, 2016


Wendy Park, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7138,
Cyrus Reed, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, (512) 740-4086, 
Kerry Lemon, Resilient Nacogdoches, (936) 615-5053,
Rita Beving, Clean Water Action, (214) 557-2271,

BLM Urged to Postpone Oil, Gas Lease Auction for Public Lands in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas

Drilling Would Put Water, Communities, Species at Risk, Increase Climate Pollution

HOUSTON— Conservation groups today called on the Bureau of Land Management to halt the sale of federal oil and gas leases on more than 36,000 acres in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas because of concerns over fracking. The BLM has authority over the federal “mineral estate” that consists of publicly owned and federally managed oil, gas and coal.

In a letter to federal officials, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Resilient Nacogdoches and Clean Water Action said opening these sensitive public lands to oil and gas extraction would potentially result in pollution of surface and groundwater, cause harm to endangered species and their habitat, increase earthquake activity and add greenhouse gas pollution that would worsen the global climate crisis.

The groups also asked that the April 20 auction of federal oil and gas be postponed because federal officials did not give the public adequate notice to comment on the proposal. The groups requested public meetings regarding the auction.

The parcels to be leased for oil and gas drilling include 31,000 acres in the Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Sabine national forests. Some of the parcels underlie municipal water supplies that serve the residents of Dallas-Fort Worth, Denton, Houston, Brenham and Corpus Christi in Texas, where fracking beneath Lewisville Lake, Somerville Lake, Lake Conroe and Choke Canyon Reservoir could contaminate drinking water for millions of people, according to today’s letter. The Forest Service also has the authority to veto the BLM’s proposal to auction these federal fuels underlying national forest lands.

The groups say the BLM failed to notify residents in those areas of the potential for fracking to occur beneath those water sources. Citing Lewisville Lake as “one of the nation’s most dangerous” dams, the letter notes the lake is at risk of a breach. BLM failed to analyze whether fracking and wastewater injection could exacerbate this risk, which would cause billions of dollars of property damage and put hundreds of thousands of people in harm’s way.

In addition to the threat posed by fracking, the groups say, federal agencies failed to consider the climate change effects of increased federal fossil fuel extraction. A nationwide study last year determined that halting new federal fossil fuel auctions on lands and offshore areas controlled by the U.S. government would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere and crippling America’s efforts to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

“Publicly owned fossil fuels beneath our drinking water and national forests should be entirely off limits for public health and wildlife,” said Wendy Park, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to transition rapidly away from fossil fuel energy sources, and public lands are the best place to start by keeping these dirty fuels in the ground.”

“Texans already suffer from too much air pollution, too many spills, too many earthquakes, too many failed casings and too many traffic accidents because of the fracking of private lands throughout Texas,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Opening up more public lands — including lakes we swim and fish in, forests we walk in and depend upon for important habitat — without even proper notice and comment is the wrong policy for the Bureau of Land Management. It’s time to hear what ordinary Texans have to say, not just the oil and gas companies that want to frack our lands.”

“The Houston Sierra Club speaks out for those who cannot speak for themselves.  Whether this includes citizens who have not heard that their public lands are being leased for harmful oil/gas development or the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, bald eagle, and the clean water and air that Sam Houston National Forest provides us.  We are all one ‘community of life’ and we must all be ‘good neighbors,’ ” said Brandt Mannchen, an activist with the Houston regional group of the Sierra Club.

“Our group only recently learned about the leasing of 30,000 acres of public lands in our national forests in East Texas, an action which is directly opposed to the final agreement of the Paris Climate Summit,” said Kerry Lemon, organizer with grassroots group Resilient Nacogdoches. “In rural East Texas, where many people live without adequate cell phone or internet access, it is virtually impossible for those most affected to find out about these oil and gas auctions with the only public notice being posted on the BLM website. It seems only fair to give local people an opportunity to participate fully in a process which will adversely impact their lives.”

“Parcels up for auction include those near or under Lewisville Lake, Lake Conroe, Somerville Lake, and Choke Canyon Reservoir — all water supply lakes for millions of Texans,” said Rita Beving, North Texas Clean Water Action outreach coordinator. “We are concerned not only about the runoff from drilling operations harming the water quality of these lakes, but the possible damage to dams caused by increased seismicity from drilling or the migration of fracking fluid coming in contact with underlying faults resulting in embankment erosion or a breach.”

The letter calling for the postponement of the April 20 auction was sent to the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. 

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