More Than One Million Americans Urge President Obama to Protect National Forests, National Parks from Fracking

Environment New Mexico

Washington, D.C.—Today, more than one million Americans called on President Obama to protect our national forests, our national parks and the drinking water they provide from fracking. The public outcry comes as the comment period on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed rule for fracking on public lands draws to a close.

“Along with more than one million Americans, we are depending on President Obama to step in and keep fracking out of our national forests and away from our national parks, such as Chaco Canyon National Historical Park,” said Sanders Moore, state director for Environment New Mexico.

Across the country, fracking has wrought widespread environmental damage—contaminating drinking water sources and turning treasured landscapes into industrial zones. And now, the oil and gas industry has designs on key areas of America’s natural heritage, including sources of drinking water for millions of Americans:

• Otero Mesa – A vital part of New Mexico’s natural heritage, Otero Mesa is home to pronghorn antelope and what is perhaps the largest untapped freshwater aquifer in this parched Southwestern state.
• White River National Forest – Located in Colorado, White River is the most visited national forest in the nation. Its pristine streams also provide drinking water to nearby communities and feed the Colorado River.
• Delaware River Basin – This basin, which spans New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, is home to three national park areas and provides drinking water to 15 million people.

The Obama administration’s advisory panel on fracking recommended the “[p]reservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling.” However, areas threatened by proposed drilling sites include Chaco Canyon National Historical Park.

More than half of the comments submitted to the BLM today call for a ban on fracking on all public lands. Yet the proposed BLM rule has no provisions to restrict fracking from any public lands whatsoever.

In addition, strong protections are needed on public lands where fracking is already occurring. Yet, the scope of the proposed fracking rule is very limited and its provisions are exceedingly weak:

• Toxic chemicals – Instead of barring the use of toxic chemicals, the BLM’s rule merely proposes disclosure of such chemicals, in a scheme even weaker than originally proposed last year.
• Well construction – The proposed rule falls short of even the American Petroleum Institute’s own standards for fracked wells.
• Wastewater – The rule has drillers submit management plans, but fails to ban waste pits.

Fracking generates millions of gallons of toxic wastewater laced with benzene, caustic salts and even radioactive material. Waste pits have contaminated groundwater at more than 400 sites in New Mexico alone.

“Fracking pollutes our water, our air, and our land,” said Moore. “The least we can expect from the administration is to keep this dirty drilling away from our forests, our parks, and the drinking water sources for millions of Americans.”