Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 12, 2018

Contact:  Wendy Park, (510) 844-7100 x 338,
Cyrus Reed, (512) 740-4086,   

Fracking Plan Threatens Corpus Christi Drinking Water

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— The Trump administration announced plans on Monday to auction off public land for fracking beneath Corpus Christi’s drinking-water supply, a reservoir already threatened by old, leaking wells. The December lease sale would offer 4,200 acres for leasing under the Choke Canyon Reservoir, where fracking would risk toxic spills, water contamination and earthquakes that could jeopardize dam stability and harm downstream water users.

“It’s stunning that the Trump administration would consider this reckless fracking plan that puts Corpus Christi’s water supply at risk,” said Wendy Park, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Public health and safety shouldn’t be sacrificed for corporate profits.”

The Bureau of Reclamation has not previously agreed to lease the land because it has not studied the potential harm from new fracking technology at Choke Canyon. A Trump administration policy issued in January now requires the Bureau of Land Management — the agency in charge of oil and gas leasing — to offer industry-nominated parcels for lease.

In February 2017 conservation groups, including the Center, and the city of Corpus Christi separately protested a BLM plan to issue fracking leases for more than 1,600 acres near and under the reservoir. That plan, like this one, risks polluting the city’s drinking water supply and compromising dam integrity with fracking-induced earthquakes. The BLM approved it in January.

The public has until Friday, July 20, to submit comments to BLM on the proposed lease auction. BLM has not informed local communities about it.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the dam and surrounding lands, raised concerns about fracking earthquakes in a 2015 protest before the Texas Railroad Commission. The Bureau said that wastewater injection eight miles away from Choke Canyon Dam could induce earthquakes, with potentially “catastrophic” impacts, and contaminate the reservoir. At least two injection wells are within a few miles of Choke Canyon now, and federal leasing could add more.

Public records obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2017 revealed six leaking oil and gas wells at Choke Canyon, including five in the reservoir as of June 2017. Emails obtained by the Center show that, as of June 2017, officials weren't sure about the risk posed by the leaking wells or who was responsible for re-plugging them.

Additional high-pressure fracking on federal leases could push chemical-laden fluid into dozens of other old wells, contaminating water if old wells leak. Bureau of Reclamation records show 330 abandoned wells in and near Choke Canyon. The records suggest additional wells of unknown location, dating from the 1930s and 1940s, could also be present.

Choke Canyon Reservoir lease sale

Map of lands in Choke Canyon Reservoir targeted for oil and gas leasing. Map by Kara Clauser, Center for Biological Diversity. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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