WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized rules regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing – commonly called fracking – on public lands. As the BLM itself admits, this rule advances the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy policy, which aims to expand domestic oil and gas production. Even though BLM has failed to take serious action, Representatives Mark Pocan (D – Wisc.) and Jan Schakowsky (D – Ill.) have heeded this call by introducing legislation in the previous Congress to ban fracking on all federal lands, with plans to reintroduce this session.
“We owe it to our future generations to protect the land that was put aside for the public good,” saidCongressman Mark Pocan. “Regulating fracking still risks accidental spills, water contamination, methane leaks, earthquakes and habitat destruction. The only way to mediate these risks is to not allow fracking in the first place.”
“Our Public Lands are too precious to spoil with fracking, said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. “The BLM regulations are a step in the right direction, but more must be done to ensure that public lands are protected and preserved for future generations. We will continue to work to completely ban fracking on public lands.”
Americans Against Fracking represents more than 250 organizations from across the country who support banning fracking. The group delivered 650,000 public comments to the BLM last year in response to the proposed rule, urging the BLM to protect public lands from drilling and fracking.
“Our U.S. national parks and public lands are some of our most treasured places and should be protected from fracking,” said Mark Ruffalo an advisory board member for Americans Against Fracking. “Yet instead of following the lead of New York in banning fracking, the Obama Administration has devised fracking regulations that are nothing more then a giveaway to the oil and gas industry. These regulations take from us our heritage and hands it to an industry that doesn’t need a hand out. Industrialization and parks don’t belong together.”
“This fracking rule is merely a continuation of Obama’s harmful all-of-the-above energy policy that emphasizes natural gas development over protection of public health and the environment,” said Kate DeAngelis, climate and energy campaigner of Friends of the Earth. “This country needs real climate leadership from President Obama, not weak regulations that do nothing to stop the devastating impacts of climate disruption. President Obama should use his authority to keep fossil fuels in the ground by placing a ban on federal fossil fuel leasing.”
“Our precious public lands have and are continuing to be sacrificed by the Obama Administration, only for the short-term profit of the oil and gas industry,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Our work will continue to truly protect the millions of acres of Federal lands that will remain in harm’s way until fracking is halted entirely. Americans believe that preserving the environmental integrity of these areas for generations to come is a critically important policy goal, especially in light of new evidence about fracking-related harm to natural resources. So we are grateful to Representatives Pocan and Schakowsky for having the vision to put forward legislation that will ban fracking on these lands.”
The BLM has a history of insufficient regulation that has put the public and the environment at risk. It currently oversees 100,000 oil and gas wells on public lands, but the Associated Press has found that the agency has failed to inspect 4 in 10 new oil and gas wells deemed by well operators as “high-risk” for environmental damage and water contamination. Furthermore, Cornell University scientists discovered that newer oil and gas wells drilled between 2000 and 2012 are more likely to leak methane than older ones.
“The Interior Department and the entire Obama administration must place strict rules on fracking — on our public lands, in our oceans and throughout our communities — and this BLM regulation has far too many loopholes,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“The President should direct BLM to stop issuing any new leases immediately until there is evidence that we won’t cross the climate tipping point, or the very least until their new methane pollution regulations are finalized and binding,” said Charlie Cray, research specialist of Greenpeace. “All of the above should mean no more from below.”
Natural gas and the methods used for extraction produce large amounts of pollution and endanger public safety. Because of these leaks, scientists have found that natural gas could be worse for the climate than other fossil fuels, such as coal. As one of the main ways to get natural gas out of the ground, fracking presents a serious danger to the public and the climate. Fracking damages air quality and water resources, leads to an increase in earthquakes, and emits large amounts of a methane – a greenhouse gas that is 87 times as potent as carbon dioxide over a 20 year time frame.
“Fracking threatens our air, water and climate – and for what? When the shale gas bubble pops, and it will, we’ll have wasted years on a seriously dirty way to drill for a mostly-dirty fuel,” said Environmental Action Executive Director Drew Hudson. “Given the substantial harms to the environment, climate, public health and community safety, without any long-term benefits, it’s clear that fracking has NO place on public land.”
This rule is only the first of many that will attempt to address climate disruption. These actions will need to be much bolder than this fracking rule to meet and hopefully exceed President Obama’s commitment of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Notably, the FracFocus chemical disclosure tool that the BLM regulations rely on has been widely panned. A Harvard Law School study in 2013 found that it fails as a fracking disclosure tool.
Contact: Ryanne Waters – rwaters[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 202.683.4925