Massive Fracking Plan Near Yellowstone National Park Threatens Wildlife, Air Quality, Climate
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club lodged formal comments with the federal government Monday opposing a massive gas fracking project that spans 220 square miles of public land in Wyoming south of Yellowstone National Park.
The Normally Pressured Lance gas field would destroy wildlife habitat and worsen ozone pollution, a major cause of childhood asthma, in areas already suffering from extreme air pollution.
"This enormous project will be a disaster for wildlife, people and the planet," said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "It will decimate habitat for animals that are already struggling and further foul the air in communities already suffering with pollution from drilling and fracking. And it locks us into decades more fossil fuel dependence, which will only worsen the climate crisis."
In their comments to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Monday, the groups said the project would destroy key wildlife habitat for greater sage grouse, pronghorn and mule deer by allowing 3,500 new gas wells, roads and other infrastructure. If approved by BLM, drilling in the 140,000-acre gas field could begin next year.
Fracking in sagebrush habitats will reduce already dwindling mule deer populations in the region. Mule deer avoid gas wells and infrastructure, which fragments and shrinks their habitat. Research shows that development of the Pinedale fracking field decimated migration routes and winter habitat, reducing mule deer populations by more than a third.
"This massive drilling project could well be the final nail in the coffin for Wyoming's historic migrations of pronghorn and mule deer, and it puts some of the largest sage grouse concentration areas in the West in serious jeopardy if it moves forward," said Bonnie Rice, senior representative with Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign. "Drilling thousands of new wells will not only have devastating impacts on wildlife, but on local communities which already have serious air quality problems from existing oil and gas development."
Jonah Energy's plan would also drill extensively in winter habitat critical for the survival of greater sage grouse populations. That's despite substantial evidence that shows drilling within 1.75 miles of winter habitat will cause sage grouse to abandon the area.
Drilling would worsen ozone pollution in the upper Green River basin, where winter ozone levels already exceed federal health standards. The project would produce up to 440 million tons of equivalent carbon dioxide pollution. This would account for more than 1 percent of the entire remaining U.S. carbon budget needed to have a 50 percent chance of returning global average temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.