Busting the Bureau of Land Management’s Frackopoly

Even without looking at a photo album, I can picture in my mind’s eye a vacation photo from the gorgeous BLM-managed (Bureau of Land Management) land near Moab, Utah. That image of my family and friends on a bicycle trip in the red rock lands, perfectly faded by time, carefully preserved for posterity. Nowhere in that photo does a fracking rig, or any telltale signs of industrial activity appear. But skip ahead fifteen or twenty years into the future, and this photo could be telling an entirely different story.

Arches National Park. Photo credit: Neal Herbert/National Park Service

That’s because parcels of BLM-managed land like the ones near Moab Valley, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and so many others in the U.S., may be at risk from nearby fracking. President Obama’s BLM controls access to more than 700 million acres of federally owned mineral rights, some of which sit adjacent to public parks.

Some 38 million acres of that land is currently leased, and over the past three years, the oil and gas industry has drilled over three thousand new wells, 90 percent of which have been (or will be) fracked. In fact, existing and proposed drilling and fracking operations overseen by the BLM threaten public lands, nearby watersheds, air quality and the health and safety of surrounding communities in 27 states.

Read page 1

The mission of the BLM, according to its own website, is “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of America’s lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” But how can future generations be expected to enjoy lands that sit adjacent to hardcore industrial activity?

Rough Mules Ear. Photo credit: Neal Herbert/National Park Service

Earlier this summer, the Associated Press revealed that four in 10 new oil and gas wells on BLM-managed property are not being inspected. According to AP analysis of BLM records, between 2009 and 2012, 1,400 wells deemed “high priority” were not examined for potential safety violations. The BLM simply isn’t upholding its responsibility to protect our lands, yet the Obama administration wants to allow more of these potential time bombs to tick away just miles from many of our nation’s treasures. Even one former BLM employee deemed these wells “a disaster waiting to happen.”

Last year, the agency released new rules for drilling and fracking on federal lands. If enacted, these rules would fail to protect those sacred areas from fracking. Food & Water Watch, joined by a coalition of nearly 300 environmental and consumer organizations, submitted more than half a million public comments urging the Obama administration to ban fracking on federal lands. Nearly a year later, little has happened. But this is a pivotal moment.

President Obama is nearing the end of his exhausting and contentious presidency, with an eye, no doubt, to his legacy. Will he ultimately embody the progressive values he campaigned on, or will he sell off our lands and our collective futures to Big Oil and Gas? When it comes to preserving our natural parks, will he be remembered more like Teddy Roosevelt, or will he be lumped in with the Koch Brothers?

Everglades Cypress Sunset. Photo credit: G Gardner/National Park Service

The BLM has asked the government for $150 million to support well inspections, but Congress can do better. Our legislative branch has the power to protect our public lands from fracking, not by throwing money at problematic wells, but by banning oil and gas development on public lands altogether. That’s why Congress needs to introduce legislation to that effect.

By now, we’ve seen enough accidents at fracking and drilling sites to know that the practice cannot be safely regulated. We’ve read countless news articles about fracking contaminating water supplies, contributing to global warming and possibly causing earthquakes in regions of the U.S. that typically do not see much seismic activity. So why mar the landscapes near our treasured national lands with fracking rigs, waste pits, well sites and new roads? Is nothing sacred?

I want my grandchildren to be able to enjoy the Moab area as I have more than a dozen times over the past 25 years. But if oil and gas development continues to threaten our nation’s treasured lands, all we, and President Obama, will have left is one toxic legacy.


Enviros Blamed for Bursting Frack Bubble

Fracking Waste Puts Americans’ Drinking Water at Risk

The Truth About Natural Gas: A ‘Green’ Bridge to Hell

Show Comments ()
Solar shade canopies. University of Hawaii

This College Could Become the First 100% Renewable Campus in U.S.

As a growing number of U.S. cities make pledges towards 100 percent renewables, it's easy to forget that the entire state of Hawaii set this important benchmark three years ago when it mandated that all of its electricity must come from renewable sources no later than 2045.

To help the Aloha State meet this ambitious commitment, in 2015, the University of Hawaii (UH) and the Hawaiian Legislature set a collective goal for the university system to be "net-zero" by Jan. 1, 2035, which means the total amount of energy consumed is equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

Keep reading... Show less

Silver Nanoparticles in Clothing Wash Out, May Be Toxic

By Sukalyan Sengupta and Tabish Nawaz

Humans have known since ancient times that silver kills or stops the growth of many microorganisms. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used silver preparations for treating ulcers and healing wounds. Until the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver (tiny particles suspended in a liquid) was a mainstay for treating burns, infected wounds and ulcers. Silver is still used today in wound dressings, in creams and as a coating on medical devices.

Keep reading... Show less
4.4 million premature air pollution deaths could be avoided in Kolkata if emissions are reduced swiftly this century. M M / CC BY-SA 2.0

Study Finds Timely Emissions Reductions Could Prevent 153 Million Air Pollution Deaths This Century

One of the roadblocks to swift action on climate change is the human brain's tendency to focus on threats and stimuli that are an obvious and noticeable part of their everyday lives, rather than an abstract and future problem, as Amit Dhir explained in The Decision Lab.

Now, a study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that acting quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions would also reduce the air pollution that is already a major urban killer, thereby saving millions of lives within the next 40 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Lands threatened by BLM's March 2018 sale include Hatch Point. Neal Clark / SUWA

Trump Administration Sells Oil and Gas Leases Near Utah National Monuments

The Interior Department on Tuesday is auctioning off 32 parcels of public lands in southeastern Utah for oil and gas development.

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) lease sale includes more than 51,000 acres of land near Bears Ears—the national monument significantly scaled back by the Trump administration last year—as well as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.

Keep reading... Show less
Katharine Hayhoe talks climate communication hacks at the Natural Products Expo West Convention. Climate Collaborative

Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate Change

By Katie O'Reilly

Katharine Hayhoe isn't your typical atmospheric scientist. Throughout her career, the evangelical Christian and daughter of missionaries has had to convince many (including her pastor husband) that science and religion need not be at odds when it comes to climate change. Hayhoe, who directs Texas Tech's University's Climate Science Center, is CEO of ATMOS Research, a scientific consulting company, and produces the PBS Kids' web series Global Weirding, rose to national prominence in early 2012 after then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dropped her chapter from a book he was editing about the environment. The reason? Hayhoe's arguments affirmed that climate change was no liberal hoax. The Toronto native attracted the fury of Rush Limbaugh, who encouraged his listeners to harass her.

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Tide NA / Twitter

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Protest Grows: Arrests Include a Greenpeace Founder, Juno-Nominated Grandfather

By Andy Rowell

Just because you get older, it doesn't mean you cannot stop taking action for what you believe in. And Monday was a case in point. Two seventy-year-olds, still putting their bodies on the line for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Early Monday morning, the first seventy-year-old, a grandfather of two, and former nominee for Canada's Juno musical award, slipped into Kinder Morgan's compound at one of its sites for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and scaled a tree and then erected a mid-air platform with a hammock up in the air.

Keep reading... Show less

The Grapes of Trash

By Marlene Cimons

German monk and theologian Martin Luther probably said it best: "Beer is made by men, wine by God." It's true—the world loves its wine. Americans, in fact, downed close to a billion gallons of it in 2016. But winemakers create a lot of waste when they produce all that vino, most of it in seeds, stalks and skins.

Keep reading... Show less

Why Mike Pompeo Could Be Even Worse for the Environment Than Rex Tillerson

By Kelle Louaillier

As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was one of the most blatant revolving-door cases in the Trump administration and a clear sign that Trump's government was of, by and for the fossil fuel industry. But make no mistake: Mike Pompeo could be far worse.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!