Over 900,000 Americans Urge President Obama to Protect National Forests, National Parks from Fracking as California Legislature Considers Fracking Bill

For Immediate Release

Sacramento—Today, over 900,000 Americans called on President Obama to protect our national forests, our national parks and our drinking water. 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 this Friday. Meanwhile, Environment California is calling on Governor Brown for a statewide ban on this dirty and dangerous form of drilling.  

 “Along with 900,000 Americans, we are depending on President Obama to step in and keep fracking out of our national forests and away from our national parks,” said Emily Waterhouse, field associate for Environment California.

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:

  • Los Padres National Forest – An ecologically sensitive area of California, Los Padres provides drinking water and ample recreational opportunities to Californians from Los Angeles all the way to the Bay Area. 
  • 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.
  • Wayne National Forest – Part of the beautiful Hocking Hills region in Ohio, most of the acres in the forest are to be leased for drilling near the sole drinking water source for 70,000 people.
  • George Washington National Forest – This area hosts streams in Virginia and West Virginia that feed the James and Potomac Rivers, which provide the drinking water for millions of people in the metro D.C. area.
  • 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.

The Obama administration’s advisory panel on fracking recommended the “[p]reservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling.” 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 propose fracking rule proposed 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. We already know that fracking is an environmental nightmare,” said Waterhouse. “Environment California is calling on Governor Brown to keep California frack-free. On the federal level, the least we can expect from the Obama administration is to keep this dirty drilling away from our forests, parks, and drinking water sources.”

Absent a statewide ban, California’s parks will continue to be threatened by the expansion of fracking. Smog and soot pollution from heavy-duty trucks and other fracking equipment contributes to local and regional air pollution problems. California’s waterways are also at risk because every barrel of oil produced generates five gallons of contaminant-based “produced water.” While talks of a statewide ban have stalled in the State Legislature, Governor Brown has yet to take a stance.

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Environment California is a state-based, citizen-funded, environmental advocacy organization working toward a cleaner, greener, and healthier future.