Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 6, 2018

Contact:  Wendy Park, (510) 844-7100 x 338,  

Fracking Leases Under Texas Reservoir Threaten Corpus Christi Drinking Water

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— The Trump administration today auctioned off 4,200 acres of public land for fracking beneath Corpus Christi’s drinking-water supply, a reservoir already threatened by old, leaking wells. Fracking under the Choke Canyon Reservoir risks toxic spills, water contamination and earthquakes that could jeopardize dam stability.

“It’s appalling that federal officials rammed through this dangerous plan without full environmental review and public notice,” said Wendy Park, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “They’re willing to risk the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of people to allow short-term profits for a few polluting oil companies. Even one spill would be disastrous for Corpus Christi’s drinking water.”

In 2017 the Bureau of Reclamation told city officials it wouldn’t lease land beneath the reservoir until a federal study was completed on the potential harm from new fracking technology at Choke Canyon. A Trump administration policy issued in January 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 BLM’s 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 city did not protest today’s sale.

“The risk of water contamination is frighteningly real,” said Park. “It’s reckless for federal officials to allow fracking at Choke Canyon without the study they said was needed.”

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 8 miles away from Choke Canyon Dam could cause earthquakes, with potentially “catastrophic” impacts, and contaminate the reservoir.

Public records obtained by the Center in 2017 revealed six leaking oil and gas wells at Choke Canyon, including five in the reservoir as of June 2017. More fracking could push chemical-laden fluid into old wells, contaminating the water if old wells leak. Bureau of Reclamation records show 330 abandoned wells in and near Choke Canyon.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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