Millions of Acres of Land—Larger Than California and Florida Combined—Already Leased to Oil and Gas Industry
By Amy Mall
According to a new NRDC analysis, at the end of 2011, seventy of the largest oil and gas companies operating in the U.S. held leases covering at least 141 million net acres of American land—an area greater than California and Florida combined.
Given the sordid environmental history of oil and gas development that has already occurred across the U.S., NRDC is extremely concerned about the additional harmful environmental, health and safety impacts that oil and gas development of this magnitude will bring in the future. Since it has been reported that more than ninety percent of oil and gas wells are fracked, there is a lot of new fracking slated for our future—tens of millions of acres of new fracking. Clean air, clean water, healthy communities, wildlands and wildlife habitat are all threatened.
These astounding numbers illustrate just how much of America’s land is already at risk from oil and gas development. In the face of this reality, clean air, clean water, healthy communities and the health of these lands across the country depend on the strongest possible state, local and federal rules, as well as the inspections, monitoring, and record-keeping needed to enforce them over such a large area.
On top of this, of the total acreage leased nationwide, 38.5 million acres—an area slightly bigger than Florida—were leased for federal oil and gas resources. This is worth noting because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is in the process of creating new rules for fracking that takes place under federal leases nationwide. These new rules will determine how oil and gas companies are allowed to operate in a wide range of places. That’s because the federal leases occur everywhere from national forests and public wildlands, to municipal and private drinking water supplies, on Indian land, and on private property when landowner’s do not own the mineral rights below the surface.
Unfortunately, BLM’s initial draft of the rules was woefully inadequate, and earlier this month a second draft was leaked to the press, revealing that the rules are becoming even weaker in some aspects. The BLM needs to dramatically strengthen its draft fracking rules in a number of ways to better protect public health and the environment. The current leaked draft is unacceptable. NRDC’s new analysis underscores how critical it is that the agency have strong rules; an enormous amount of land could immediately be impacted by this new rule because it is already leased for current or future development. (Not to mention there are hundreds of millions of acres of unleased public land that could be affected in the future).
Americans don't want the dirty energy future currently planned for us by oil and gas companies. And America’s energy needs don’t require or justify this level of widespread drilling. As a nation we must shift our reliance on fossil fuels to energy efficiency and renewable power sources as quickly as possible.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.
Rehabilitators at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys assess critically endangered, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown in after rescue in New England. The Turtle Hospital<p>NEAQ and local rescuers begin seeing turtles every fall when water temperatures drop to that 50 degrees F threshold, and typically expect to find them into early January. After that, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-turtle-cape-cod-weather-2621527394.html" target="_self">temperatures are so cold that any animals found are usually no longer alive</a>.</p><p>Merigo estimated that this year's cold season "looks very busy" and noted that local rescue efforts had already surpassed 400 turtles.</p><p>"It is a lot of animals. They're still coming in," she told EcoWatch as she surveyed 39 rescued turtles that day and 20 the day prior. "So far, this is a huge year."</p><p>At NEAQ, the turtles are gradually warmed up about five to 10 degrees F a day. More aggressive warming can cause serious damage and the turtle might not survive, Merigo said. Emergency treatments also include providing replacement fluids, balancing electrolytes and addressing pneumonia. Assessments take place for other serious problems too, such as shell or limb fractures, frostbite, emaciation and eye damage.<span></span></p><p>As local aquariums don't have the capacity to care for all the injured turtles, a group of private pilots called <a href="https://www.turtlesflytoo.org/" target="_blank">"Turtles Fly Too"</a> donated planes, fuel and time to transport some to various partner facilities around the country. Other turtles were driven to closer care facilities.</p><p>"We have a huge network of really great partners working with us, so if we can spread out the care, we can give better care to all the animals," Merigo said.</p><p>The 40 Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovering in The Turtle Hospital will continue to be treated and rehabilitated anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the severity of injuries, Zirkelbach said.</p><p>The turtle expert noted that while she's treated cold-stunned turtles from the north before, the newest arrivals were the most cold-stunned Kemp's ridleys ever received at one time.</p>
After rescue, cold-stunned sea turtles received immediate emergency care and assessments at the New England Aquarium. Caitlin Cunningham / New England Aquarium<p>In the past decade, the Gulf of Maine, which spans from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the ocean, Zirkelbach said. The warm water encourages turtles that migrate north along the Gulf Stream in warmer months to stay in the bay longer.</p><p>"Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck in the unique horseshoe-shaped topography of the Cape Cod peninsula, and when temperatures drop, the bay becomes a death trap," she added.</p><p>Before ocean temperatures warmed, the waters of Maine were too cold for many of these sea turtles, Merigo echoed. Now, with warming sea surface temperatures, Maine can reach the high 70s to low 80s, which is "perfect turtle temperature," she said. The potential for more turtles getting trapped in the bay and then cold-stunned is nerve-racking for Merigo.</p><p>In addition to shifting habitats as waters warm, warming global temperatures also disrupt natural gender balance in sea turtles, Merigo warned. Gender is determined by the temperature of eggs in nests, and as the planet warms, it will result in all females at some point, she said.</p><p>"The turtles we work with are all endangered and threatened," Merigo said. "For sea turtles in general, the future is a little grim. Climate change is real; it does impact them."</p>
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