Impacted Citizens and Environmental Leaders Speak Out On BLM Fracking Rules

At close of comment period, a million Americans flood Obama administration with comments


Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5221

The public comment period closes tomorrow for the Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) second version of its Proposed “Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands” rule.  BLM rules apply to more than 750 million acres of public lands and minerals: underneath Tribal lands, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges and other special places, beneath more than 50 million acres of privately-owned land, and drinking water sources for millions of Americans. These rules affect the health of communities and the environment, and the water and air upon which they rely.

As a result approximately 1 million comments have been submitted by people across the country to the Obama Administration, asking him to stop the assault on our public lands and to protect our air, water and communities.    

The following quotes are from drilling-impacted citizens and environmental leaders from around the United States:

Kristi Mogen, the mother of two daughters, lives on a small farm near Douglas, Wyoming. Her family’s health has been failing ever since last year, when a well near their home suffered a blowout and sent a plume of vaporized drilling chemicals into the air. “I live just down the road from federal lands that have been leased and are about to be developed by an oil and gas company. Fracking can start at any time. We’ve already suffered several drilling-related chemical exposures in our community. We can’t afford another. The state of Wyoming isn’t doing its job. When Chesapeake repeatedly poisons our air, land, livestock and our family, the state looks the other way. The federal government needs to step up and make sure that families like mine are protected,” Mogen said.

Rod Brueske is a builder and second generation Coloradoan, who lives on the outskirts of Longmont on a small homestead with his family. After fracking operations began nearby, his family was forced to relocate to a hotel. When they returned, they noticed a chemical smell and taste in their mouth, began suffering nosebleeds, and their health began to worsen. “Here in Colorado, more than a third of our state is public lands, the same lands that bring us fresh drinking water and awe-inspiring scenery. But instead of working hard to protect our natural heritage and public health, our state and federal governments seem determined to make it easier for the oil and gas industry to destroy these things. Our own governor has threatened to sue communities for trying to protect themselves from fracking. And these weak federal rules will only lead to more unsafe drilling. If our state and federal governments won’t stand up for what’s right, we will. That’s why the people of Colorado continue to support and pass local bans on fracking,” Brueske said. 

Deb Thomas, of Clark, Wyoming, lives on the edge of Yellowstone and the Shoshone Forest. Undeterred by the region’s beauty and seismic activity, the industry has tried to develop the area for oil and gas. Windsor Energy had a well blowout that left her community’s water supply tainted with chemicals used in oil and gas production. Residents now must rely on bottled water for drinking or expensive water treatment systems. “Once again, President Obama is abandoning the people who are suffering the impacts of drilling every day. It’s time for this administration to take the health of these communities seriously and stop catering to the oil and gas industry,” said Thomas of the Powder River Basin Resource Council in Wyoming. 

John Fenton, a rancher, lives near Pavillion, Wyoming, in the midst of the Pavillion gas field. With numerous wells, production tanks, compressors, and other machinery surrounding his home, drilling impacts his family and way of life on a daily basis. “President Obama needs to remember that drilling on our public lands not only harms wildlife and forests, but families as well. Over 50 million acres of public minerals are underneath the homes, farms and ranches of everyday people who don’t have any say over what happens to their property,” said Fenton. 

“These fracking rules prioritize oil and gas industry profits before the public interest. The Obama Administration had the chance lead. Instead, despite overwhelming public input urging stronger oversight or an outright ban on fracking, the Bureau of Land Management caved to industry lobbying and made the rules weaker. President Obama, listen to the public this time and protect our land, air and water,” said Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill. 

“The ugly reality is that the oil and gas industry has gotten very used to operating on our public lands with few safeguards in place. While we work to keep the industry out of special places, families who live nearby and sometimes even atop federal oil and gas leases are suffering from the destructive impacts of oil and gas development. In most cases, state governments have abandoned these families and turned a blind eye to pollution and health problems. If these weak rules are adopted as is, the federal government will be abandoning them too,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.

“These rules will determine what safeguards against fracking are – or are not – in place for more than 750 million acres across the country, from California to Virginia. Unfortunately, the current draft is woefully inadequate to protect public health and the environment. The fate of not only America’s wild places, but private residences for thousands and drinking water supplies for millions depends on the Obama Administration dramatically strengthening these rules,” said Amy Mall, of Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The quality of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans, and the conservation of our national wildlife, will be at stake if these proposed rules regulating drilling on public lands go through. A million Americans have asked the Obama administration to require water quality tests before drilling begins and to disclose all the potentially toxic chemicals used in fracking. The Bureau of Land Management is shirking its responsibilities to protect the public and to preserve our natural resources,” said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government.

“BLM must strengthen its rule to ensure in advance of operations that drilling and hydraulic fracturing will be done right. The BLM rule should demand geologic studies to ‘look before you drill,’ including identification of faults, fracture zones and nearby abandoned wells that could possibly conduct fluids and methane to the surface.  BLM should also require a demonstration of the integrity of every well prior to hydraulic fracturing and periodic monitoring of all potentially affected sources of useable water.  As stewards of America’s public lands, BLM has a duty to ensure that water resources–that will be counted on for many generations– are not irreversibly contaminated in the quest for short-term oil and gas resources,” said Dr. Bruce Hill, Senior Geologist with Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based environmental organization.  

“The Sierra Club is alarmed and disappointed that the Obama Administration is putting the American public’s health and well-being at risk with these proposed rules. Although no amount of regulation will make fracking acceptable or safe, there is no excuse to let drillers pollute our water and air, while degrading our public lands.  The proposed BLM rules fail to take all of the obvious and critical steps necessary to address these basic health and environmental concerns. The hundreds of thousands of public comments the agency is receiving send a strong message to President Obama and Secretary Jewell that dirty and destructive drilling and fracking do not belong in our national climate plan, on our public lands, or next to our communities,” said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign.   

“Across the country, fracking has wrought widespread environmental damage, contaminating drinking water and turning treasured landscapes into industrial zones. Yet the oil and gas industry now wants to bring its dirty drilling to the doorsteps of our national parks and right inside our national forests, which provide drinking water for millions of Americans.  So at the very least, now is the time for President Obama to step in and order the ‘[p]reservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling,’ as recommended by his own administration’s advisory panel on fracking,” said John Rumpler of Environment America. 

“The Obama Administration has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and to protect precious resources, including drinking water sources, from oil and gas drilling activities.  We hope they will listen to the voices of hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals and organizations rather than perpetuating the special treatment which oil and gas interests enjoy in terms of subsidies and exemptions from common sense state and federal health and environmental protections,” said Lynn Thorp of Clean Water Action. 

“The Bureau of Land Management has been entrusted with sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of America’s public lands for present and future generations. That’s why a million people have urged the Obama Administration to ban fracking on all federal lands,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch on behalf of Americans Against Fracking. 


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