The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Groups Sue Interior Secretary to Protect California Public Lands From Fracking
In the wake of a landmark legal victory against fracking on public lands last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed a new lawsuit today challenging the Obama Administration’s auction of an additional 17,000 acres in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties for drilling and fracking.
The suit against newly appointed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Land Management says the government did not fully consider the dangers fracking poses to watersheds, endangered wildlife and air quality before auctioning the leases in December.
A federal judge ruled last week, in response to a previous lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, that the BLM violated the law by issuing other oil leases in Monterey County without considering fracking’s threat to the environment. It was the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the risks of fracking.
“The federal government has to stop shrugging off the dangers of fracking pollution to California’s public lands,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brendan Cummings, who argued the previous fracking lawsuit in court. “Fracking and drilling in these beautiful places threatens precious wildlife habitat and endangers the whole Salinas Valley watershed. By opening up this land to oil exploitation, the Obama Administration is putting our air and water at risk of contamination by dangerous fracking chemicals.”
Fracking employs huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The controversial technique has already been used in hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells. Last year the BLM estimated that about 90 percent of wells currently drilled on federal lands were fracked.
“The Sierra Club opposes opening any new areas for oil and gas drilling, especially when long-term impacts to our health, environment and climate are still largely unknown,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Fracking for oil is not a safe solution for securing our energy future. Instead of leasing land for more dirty fuel drilling, the Obama administration needs to double down on clean energy.”
Oil companies are increasingly interested in fracking the Monterey Shale, a geological formation beneath the BLM leases that contains an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Extracting the oil will almost certainly require fracking, which is known to pollute air, contaminate water and destroy natural landscapes.
Last year the BLM auctioned the lands to oil and gas companies at a December lease sale after only a cursory environmental review and despite objections from local citizens and businesses. All parcels were sold, but drilling hasn't started yet.
Fracking routinely uses numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene and trimethylbenzene. A recent Colorado School of Public Health study found that fracking increases cancer risk and contributes to serious neurological and respiratory problems in people living near fracked wells.
Wildlife is also at risk. Fish can die when fracking fluid contaminates streams and rivers, birds can be poisoned by chemicals in wastewater ponds, and the intense industrial development that accompanies fracking pushes threatened or endangered animals out of wild areas they need to survive.
Continued drilling and fracking also releases huge amounts of methane, an extremely powerful global warming gas. Methane is about 105 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period, bringing us closer to climate disaster with every well drilled.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.
Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.
Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.
Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.
East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.