Environmental groups are sounding the alarm as several states in the western US seek to ramp up oil and natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing, potentially disturbing sensitive, federally-protected lands.
The Center for Biological Diversity and three other groups based in Colorado filed a protest against the Bureau of Land Management this week seeking to stop the federal agency from instituting rules that would vastly increase the amount of fracked oil and gas produced on public lands in the state. If the BLM’s rules go through, the number of fracked wells in northwest Colorado could increase from about 1,800 to 17,000 over the next two decades.
That, environmentalists say, would threaten an area already stressed from the drying up of the Colorado river .
“The Colorado river system’s endangered fish can’t handle more water depletions,” said John Weisheit the conservation director of local activist group Living Rivers said in a statement. “The river system is already over-allocated and climate change is making that situation worse. It’s hard to imagine a more self-destructive policy.”
The protest – a kind of official complaint that requires a response from the BLM – was filed as a lawsuit from fracking supporters against the BLM gains steam.
Last week the state of Colorado joined Wyoming and North Dakota and two groups of oil and gas companies in suing the BLM in an attempt to block regulations which, starting in June, would require companies drilling on federal lands to disclose the chemicals they use in drilling.
“This lawsuit will demonstrate that BLM exceeds its powers when it invades the states’ regulatory authority in this area,” Colorado attorney general Cynthia Coffman said last week . “I believe it is important to test BLM’s novel assertion of regulatory authority in an area that has been traditionally – and in this case expressly – reserved for the states.”
The first lawsuit against the BLM over the new rules was filed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, groups that represent a slew of multi-million dollar fracking operations.
The BLM has long been criticized by environmental groups for kowtowing to oil, gas, and coal industry demands by leasing federal land on the cheap, and not doing enough work to remediate the damage caused by energy production. Despite the Obama administration’s stated goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the US, his administration has overseen a large increase in coal, oil and gas production on federal lands .