Northwestern New Mexico at Risk from Bureau of Land Management Fracking Plan
WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance fired back late March 5 against the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plans to open the door for a massive new fracking project in northwestern New Mexico that threatens clean air, wildlife, and the climate.
“Drilling for oil and gas has already taken a tremendous toll on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the outdoors that we depend on,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program director. “This latest proposal threatens to push us over the brink, giving industry unfettered permission to undertake massive fracking at the expense of our environment.”
The groups are challenging the first proposal ever approved by the Bureau of Land Management to allow the oil and gas industry to tap shale gas using horizontal drilling in the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico. Although the region has been drilled extensively, the practice of horizontal drilling to access shale gas has never before been commercially viable.
In a Statement of Reasons filed as part of an appeal of the Middle Mesa Plan of Development, the groups pointed out that the proposed fracking project would allow Williams Production (now called WPX) to drill 53 new shale gas wells and undertake a total of 636 fracking jobs over a five-year period. According to the Bureau of Land Management, each fracking job will require 420,000 gallons of fluid for a total of 267,120,000 gallons.
The fracking would occur near the Navajo Reservoir on the San Juan River and in an area that is facing increased air quality challenges. And in allowing WPX to undertake the project, the Bureau of Land Management waived seasonal restrictions on drilling meant to protect deer and elk.
“The Bureau of Land Management analysis of this new technology is underwhelming, particularly given the significant impacts expected concerning water, air and water, and the fact that the 2003 BLM planning document for the area did not assess horizontal drilling for shale. The BLM prepared an Environmental Assessment for a new drilling program for shale that has never been adequately analyzed for full field development, with no recognition of the significant existing cumulative impacts in the project area from decades of conventional natural gas drilling and operations,” said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Horizontal drilling for shale gas is new and it carries risks that have yet to be assessed by the Bureau of Land Management,” said Eisenfeld. “With our air, our water, and our lands at stake, we need to ensure that the jump into horizontal drilling and fracking for shale gas is as safe as possible and that the BLM is thoroughly analyzing the entire scale of operations associated with this proposal. That’s not too much to ask.”
The groups are calling on the Interior Board of Land Appeals in Washington, D.C. to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to allow the Middle Mesa project to proceed because the agency failed to take into account the full risk of horizontal shale gas drilling.
For example, the agency did not analyze the air quality impacts of the drilling. Yet recent air pollution inventories show that ground-level ozone forming volatile organic compound emissions are thirty times higher than originally expected. Ozone, the key ingredient of smog that can trigger asthma attacks, is a persistent problem in the San Juan Basin. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2011, federal health limits on ozone air pollution were exceeded three times.
The Bureau of Land Management also ignored reports showing that the development of shale gas wells releases more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional wells.
WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance pointed to the fact that the 2003 Resource Management Plan for the Farmington Field Office, which covers the Middle Mesa area, actually found that horizontal drilling was not even a viable technology that would be used in the next 20 years.
Despite this, the Bureau of Land Management relied on its management plan in asserting that the risks of horizontal drilling have already been analyzed.
The Interior Board of Land Appeals is not expected to issue a ruling on the appeal until the end of the year. In the meantime, WPX has indicated that, due to economic concerns with the low prices for natural gas, the Middle Mesa project will be on hold for 2012.
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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