CMD superman logo.jpg SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy,

depends on donations from people like you!

Click here to make a tax-deductable contribution.

Fracking and public lands

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

This article is part of the FrackSwarm portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. To search by topic or location, click here.

This article is part of the FrackSwarm coverage of fracking.
Sub-articles:
Related articles:

All of the Eastern U.S. forest acreage leased since 2011 (with the exception of 38,174 acres in Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest) lies over shale deposits. From 2011 to mid-2012, the federal government had leased or scheduled for auction more than 384,000 acres at the request of private bidders, more than 10 times as much land as it had leased in the previous two years. Private land overlying shale deposits can sell for thousands of dollars an acre; land in 2012 BLM forest leases averaged $47 per acre.[1]

Drilling and parks

National-Parks-drilling1.jpg

Leasing procedures

According to environmental groups, BLM is not applying the same environmental review and public comment procedures that the Obama administration has instituted in the West. Under those procedures, BLM analyzes the site-specific environmental consequences for lease parcels several months in advance of a sale and provides its findings to the public for comment; provides maps and global positioning data for each lease parcel; and provides links to the environmental analysis supporting a sale on its Web site.

By contrast, bidders on Forest Service lands in the East don’t need to provide GPS coordinates for prospective parcels; they can describe areas by referring to local landmarks or other general terms; and a site-specific environmental analysis takes place only after leases are sold.

BLM officials say the difference lies in which federal agency is operating as the land’s surface manager: in the West, BLM, a division of the Interior Department, performs the analysis; in Eastern national forests, the Forest Service performs the task because it owns the land being leased, even though BLM officials conduct the auctions.[2]

Regulations

A Boom With No Boundaries: How Drilling Threatens Theodore Roosevelt National Park

May 2012: Initial rules proposed

On May 4, 2012 the Obama administration announced proposed federal rules that will require companies to disclose the chemicals used during their fracking process after they finish operations. The rules will also strengthen well-bore integrity and address issues related to flowback water. The regulations would only account for the natural gas and oil deposits located on BLM land, which is considered a "sliver" of total lands where fracking occurs.[3][4][5] The rules would allow limited exemptions on chemical disclosure for “legitimate trade secrets.”[6]

Industry response

In January 2013, the Interior Department restarted the process, announcing it was drafting a new proposal. The new language incorporated several industry requests, including: exempting acidizing, a process similar to fracturing that is used in California's Monterey Shale; making it easier to withhold fracturing fluid ingredients as trade secrets; and adopting the industry-backed FracFocus website for disclosure of chemicals. According to an EnergyWire review of White House visitor records, President Obama's top energy adviser Heather Zichal met more than 20 times in 2012 with industry groups and company executives lobbying on the proposed BLM rule, including the American Petroleum Institute (API), BP, Devon Energy, and ExxonMobil.[7]

May 2013: New proposed rules

In May 2013 the BLM published new draft rules weaker than those proposed in 2012. According to the NRDC:[8]

  • The rules would only cover fracking and not other "well stimulation" techniques, which will continue to be covered by existing rules (which the Department of the Interior has called “outdated");
  • Rather than require companies to submit information ensuring a well will adequately protect drinking water, companies can submit results from another well deemed similar, and can be submitted after fracking;
  • It would allow companies to determine which chemicals it uses are "trade secrets" and keep that information confidential without oversight by the BLM;
  • Companies would disclose information on chemicals used on FracFocus.org, an industry-funded website that restricts access to data and is not subject to federal freedom of information requirements;
  • The new proposal allows BLM discretion to exempt states from the new rules if the BLM determines that a state’s rules are adequate.

Final federal rules are expected in late 2013.

Legal challenges

Talladega National Forest

In April 2012, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and other groups contested a planned June 2012 lease sale involving more than 43,000 acres (totaling 36 parcels) of national forestland in Alabama, saying the Bureau of Land Management failed to properly evaluate the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing to sensitive wildlife and water quality. The lease would cover 42,965 acres of industry-nominated parcels in the Talladega National Forest in east-central Alabama, and 73 acres in Conecuh National Forest in south Alabama.[9]

SELC argued in its complaint that the lease of these parcels for oil and gas development would violate multiple federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, and that drilling would result in significant impacts to the federally threatened wildlife, as well as to various waterways. Specifically, the SELC states that BLM's decision to authorize the lease sale is incorrectly based on environmental studies and analysis that the Forest Service used in 2004 to revise the Land and Resource Management Plan for Alabama's national forests, saying those studies are out of date and do not evaluate the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing. SELC wants BLM to withdraw the 36 Alabama national forest parcels until an in-depth environmental impact statement is conducted.[9]

The Alabama lease parcels are part of a much broader multistate oil and gas lease sale planned for June 14 covering more than 92,000 acres of federal land in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The SELC protest involves only the 36 parcels in the Talladega and Conecuh national forests in Alabama. Industry interest in the region appears to be on shale gas in the Black Warrior Shale Basin beneath Talladega National Forest. The Energy Information Administration has identified a number of active and potential areas in the area for shale drilling, which typically involves fracking.[9]

BLM spokesperson Davida Carnahan said the lease sale is still scheduled to take place and that a decision on the protest letter likely won't be made until after the sale.[9]

Bans

In 2011, officials at Virginia’s George Washington Forest proposed banning any future horizontal drilling in the forest.[10] The move has stirred oil and gas companies to try to block or modify the proposed ban. A final plan is expected to be released by November 2013.[11]

No other national forest has drilling restrictions, and most do not control the mineral rights to what lies in the ground; those are mostly left to private lease buyers.[11]

Reports

Carbon emissions

According to the December 2013 report by the Center for American Progress, public lands contribute 4.5 times more carbon pollution than they are able to absorb: "Based on an analysis of publicly available ecosystem carbon-sequestration data accessed from the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, public lands in the continental United States absorb 259 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MMTCO2e, every year. Meanwhile, 1,154 MMTCO2e are emitted each year from the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas extracted from onshore public lands in the continental United States."[12]

Impacts

According to the 2103 EIA report, "Sales of Fossil Fuels Produced from Federal and Indian Lands, FY 2003 through FY 2012," federal lands contributed to 42.1 percent of US coal (442 million short tons), 26.2 percent of US oil (596 million barrels), and 17.8 percent of our natural gas (4,262 billion cubic feet). Climate Progress estimates that, using the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator,” the 2012 public lands development is equivalent to the emissions from 427 coal-fired power plants. (For comparison, there are 589 coal-fired power plants in the U.S.)

A 2013 USGS study found that construction of new roads and pipelines for Marcellus Shale natural gas development and other energy industries can end up sub-dividing local forests, leading to smaller ecosystems and limiting wildlife.[13]

Inspections

The 2013 US GAO report "BLM Needs Better Data to Track Permit Processing Times and Prioritize Inspections" faulted the Bureau of Land Management for not including information about the environmental inspection history of many wells in its central database for tracking oil and gas facilities on public lands. As a result, the report said the inspection prioritization process “does not have sufficient information to ensure that wells receiving inspections are those that pose the greatest environmental risk.”

Resources

References

  1. Juliet Eilperin, "Forest lands in the East attract oil and gas bidders, but some question rush," The Washington Post, June 8, 2012.
  2. Juliet Eilperin, "Forest lands in the East attract oil and gas bidders, but some question rush," The Washington Post, June 8, 2012.
  3. "EPA's Fracking Rules Cover Only A Sliver Of Land" Huffington Post, Lena Groeger, May 9, 2012.
  4. "Obama proposes fracking companies disclose chemicals" Wendy Koch, USA Today, May 4, 2012.
  5. "Administration issues new fracking rules" Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2012.
  6. Mark Drajem and Katarzyna Klimasinska, "Fracking Rules on U.S. Lands Seen by Interior as Model," Bloomberg, Feb. 2, 2012.
  7. Mike Soraghan "White House huddled with industry before changes to BLM fracking rule," E&E, April 12, 2013.
  8. Matthew McFeeley, "Obama Administration Caves To Fracking Industry in New Proposed Rules," NRDC, May 16, 2013.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Scott Streater, "OIL AND GAS: Enviros challenge BLM lease sale inside Ala. national forestland," E&E reporter, April 19, 2012.
  10. Juliet Eilperin, "Forest lands in the East attract oil and gas bidders, but some question rush," The Washington Post, June 8, 2012.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Scott Harper, "Proposed ban on fracking in Va. forest sparks debate," The Virginian-Pilot, June 2, 2013.
  12. "The Clogged Carbon Sink: U.S. Public Lands Are the Source of 4.5 Times More Carbon Pollution Than They Can Absorb," CAP, December 5, 2013.
  13. Noah Brode, "Federal Study: Shale Development Fragmenting Allegheny County Forests," 90.5 WESA, March 25, 2013.

Related SourceWatch articles

For state-by-state information on fracking, click on the map below.

Alabama and fracking Alaska and fracking Arizona and fracking Arkansas and fracking California and fracking Colorado and fracking Connecticut and fracking Delaware and fracking Florida and fracking Georgia and fracking Hawaii and fracking Idaho and fracking Illinois and fracking Indiana and fracking Iowa and fracking Kansas and fracking Kentucky and fracking Louisiana and fracking Maine and fracking Maryland and fracking Massachusetts and fracking Michigan and fracking Minnesota and fracking Mississippi and fracking Missouri and fracking Montana and fracking Nebraska and fracking Nevada and fracking New Hampshire and fracking New Jersey and fracking New Mexico and fracking New York and fracking North Carolina and fracking North Dakota and fracking Ohio and fracking Oklahoma and fracking Oregon and fracking Pennsylvania and fracking Rhode Island and fracking South Carolina and fracking South Dakota and fracking Tennessee and fracking Texas and fracking Utah and fracking Vermont and fracking Virginia and fracking Washington State and fracking West Virginia and fracking Wisconsin and fracking Wyoming and fracking Delaware and fracking Maryland and fracking New Hampshire and fracking New Jersey and fracking Massachusetts and fracking Connecticut and fracking West Virginia and fracking Vermont and fracking Rhode Island and frackingMap of USA with state names.png
About this image

External links