Trump’s fracking plans put Nevada, West Virginia in crosshairs
Anti-fracking activists rally outside the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Reno, Nevada. | Scott Sonner/AP

As the climate change-denying Trump administration continues to support fossil fuels, harmful practices like fracking are not just gaining support from capitalist energy companies, they’re also expanding to new areas, threatening human health and the preservation of important ecosystems. But three conservation groups are fighting back.

On Nov. 13, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildLands Defense, and Basin and Range Watch filed an administrative protest with a huge Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction, which is scheduled for Dec. 12, and which would expose more than 600 square miles of public land in Nevada to fracking, including groundwater and sensitive springs fed by aquifers. The area represents a critical habitat for threatened wildlife, like the mule deer and the greater sage grouse.

The protesting groups challenged that the Bureau of Land Management is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act due to its failure to ascertain the risks of fracking on such a large scale in the area. This includes neglecting to consider the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the natural gas drilling, which studies have shown is not compatible with U.S. commitments under the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Of course, President Trump has announced the decision to pull the nation out of that agreement, though he cannot officially do so until at least Nov. 4, 2020.

“The Trump administration is putting some of Nevada’s most critical water supplies at risk of fracking pollution by auctioning off this public land to oil companies,” said Center for Biological Diversity state director Patrick Donnelly. “This plan reeks of callous disregard for our state’s water and wildlife. Trump’s Bureau of Land Management is flagrantly violating our nation’s environmental laws to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.”

Taylor McKinnon, also with the Center for Biological Diversity, added, “We won’t let Nevada’s water and wildlife be sacrificed for oil industry profits. If the Bureau wants a fight, it’s found one. Trump administration oil industry cronyism has no place on America’s public lands.”

“Fracking on our public lands could contaminate Nevada’s precious groundwater and dry up vital springs and creeks,” said Katie Fite, director of public lands for WildLands Defense. “Before they auction off our lands to the highest bidder, the Bureau is legally required to be honest with the public about the effects of fracking on our water and climate.”

Nevada is not the only state under environmental attack, however. President Trump has quietly set his sights on West Virginia, after making a series of energy agreements with China during his 12-day tour of Asia. Among those agreements was one made with China Energy Investment Corporation, a company that plans to invest $83.7 billion over two decades in shale gas and chemical manufacturing projects in the Mountain State, the same state where Trump also vowed to revive the coal industry.

This is unfortunately in keeping with the words Trump spoke back in Sept. 2016, when he told fossil fuel industry executives at the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh that America was “sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy,” and touted his idea to “open up lands for oil and gas production.”

Greenpeace spokeswoman Cassidy Sharp remarked, “Trump pandered to the Marcellus Shale industry, singing the praises of a dangerous energy extraction process that threatens the health and safety of families and communities all over the country, and promising to slash critical regulations. This man has no business dealing with America’s energy policy.” She added that Trump is a “belligerent catalyst of catastrophic climate change.”

“The human cost of the climate crisis is undeniable,” said Ruth Breech, senior campaigner on climate and energy with the Rainforest Action Network. “The solution to this emergency is clear: an immediate stop to the expansion of fossil fuel development. Additional fracking on public lands moves us further towards climate disaster. Expanding fracking on public lands is dangerous and harmful to the land and its people. Destroying these lands for short term profit will leave them degraded for future generations.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is production manager, responsible for the assembly of the PW home page. As a writer, he has also covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the UN Climate Conference in Paris, earning him awards from the IWPA and ILCA. He lives in Illinois and frequently visits his home state of New Jersey. He likes cats, red wine, books, music, and nature. Using the pen name "Blake X," he writes a blog that can be found at blakedeppe.com.

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