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Texas Town Opposes BLM's Plan to Frack Public Lands

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Oil drilling site, with a pond for fracking water, Cotulla, Texas. Photo credit: Al Braden

The mayor of Brenham signed Monday the city council's unanimous resolution opposing the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) plans to auction lands beneath and around Lake Somerville for oil and gas development. The resolution cited concerns that loss or contamination of the lake's water supply would be "catastrophic" for its residents. Lake Somerville is the city's sole drinking water source.


A federal lease auction for oil and gas deposits beneath and around Lake Somerville and Choke Canyon Reservoir—a water supply for Corpus Christi—is scheduled for June 8. Lake Somerville lies along the northeastern end of the oil-rich Eagle Ford Shale Play. In recent years advances fracking techniques have made these oil deposits accessible to oil and gas operators and have sparked an oil and gas boom in Texas.

"We applaud Brenham for taking a stand against this dangerous fracking plan. Fracking beneath or near Lake Somerville could have disastrous consequences for communities that depend on this precious water supply, including Brenham, Somerville and Lyons," said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Conservation groups and the city of Corpus Christi filed formal protests in February challenging the lease auction, raising concerns about spills, water contamination and earthquakes that could jeopardize dam integrity.

"Somerville Lake is an important water source for the city of Brenham," said Rita Beving of Clean Water Action. "It is important that city leaders like those of Brenham step in to do all they can to protect the water quality and the infrastructure of their reservoir."

Brenham city officials also plan to send a letter to the BLM opposing the lease auction, although the deadline for filing a formal protest has passed. City officials at the council meeting expressed concerns that it did not receive adequate notice of the lease auction. The BLM only posted notice of the lease sale on the agency's New Mexico state office website.

Records obtained recently by the Center for Biological Diversity through a Freedom of Information Act request to the federal Bureau of Reclamation show that in 2012, two "plugged" oil wells beneath Choke Canyon Reservoir were found by agency staff to be leaking into the reservoir. Records obtained thus far do not indicate the amount or type of pollution that resulted from the leaks or whether those leaks are ongoing.

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