Monday, December 08, 2014

Anti-fracking protestors to rally at BLM auction in Reno on Dec 9

NEWS RELEASE: For Immediate Release, December 8, 2014

Contact: Dan Patterson, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 381-3475
Dawn Harris, Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking, (775) 443-7180
Jennifer Eisele, Shoshone Paiute Tribes, Duck Valley Indian Reservation, (541) 525-0886
Bob Fulkerson, PLANevada, (775) 843-2218

Anti-fracking Protesters to Rally Outside BLM Auction in Reno 
Coalition Urges BLM to Cancel Lease Sales to Protect Water, Health and Environment

RENO, Nev. – Protesters wearing blue and carrying water jugs will rally outside the U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Reno on Tuesday morning to protest the auction of fracking leases on public lands. The auction of over 150,000 acres in Lincoln and Nye counties in BLM’s Ely District will begin at 9:00 a.m. at the BLM Nevada State Headquarters building located at 1340 Financial Boulevard in Reno. Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking, which is organizing the protest, is calling on the BLM to cancel the sale in order to protect water, people, wildlife and quality of life from the dangers of fracking.

The protest will be Tuesday, December 9, from 7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

“Fracking is a big risk to Nevada’s water, and without adequate clean water, we have nothing,” said Dan Patterson, with the Center for Biological Diversity, a member of the coalition. “The fracking industry wants to get its hands on Nevada, but while they reap profits, our wildlife and water supplies will pay the price. Across the state, from Reno to Austin and Reese River Valley, to Ely, eastern Nevada and Las Vegas, Nevadans want to protect our water, quality of life, lands and wildlife from the fracking push.”

Fracking uses huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and dangerous chemicals, to blast open rock formations and release oil and gas. The controversial technique is being proposed on hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands managed by the BLM across Nevada.

A typical hydraulic fracturing process uses between 1.2 million and 3.5 million gallons of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million gallons. This water often resurfaces as “flowback,” which is often highly polluted by fracking chemicals as well as radioactive materials from fractured shale.

Fracking has brought environmental and economic problems to rural communities across the country. Accidents and leaks have polluted rivers, streams and drinking water. Regions peppered with drilling rigs have high levels of smog, global warming gases, as well as other airborne pollutants, including potential carcinogens. Rural communities face an onslaught of heavy truck traffic — often laden with dangerous chemicals used in drilling — and declining property values. Wildlife habitat is also fragmented and degraded.

“Fracking is part of a larger problem, a problem where money trumps common sense and we jeopardize our precious water for a few dollars,” said Dawn Harris of Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking. “Nevada state and local officials should ban fracking to protect our water, as people in places like Denton, Texas and San Benito County, California have done.”

"Nevada’s precious groundwater should not be sacrificed for short term profits of corporations. In our arid desert, groundwater should always trump oil," said Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Communities directly affected by oil and gas fracking, as a result of these sales, were not alerted by BLM in advance of preparing lease sale.

“Nevada Tribes have a vested interest in protecting our ancestral homelands from being harmed by the oil & gas industry,” said Jennifer Eisele, of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes, Duck Valley Indian Reservation. “We have a spiritual relationship with Mother Earth and it is our duty to protect our natural resources for the future existence of ourselves and descendants. Exploitation of fossil fuels may harm our water quality and damage our agriculture, which is our primary means of economic support.”

“Water is precious in the desert. I’m afraid of fracking chemicals being injected into our groundwater,” said Jennifer Messina of Ely, a retired teacher. “People are working to promote eastern Nevada as a great place to live and visit. All our efforts are lost if fracking poisons our ground.”

“BLM has a mandate to protect the safety of the environment and human health, but both BLM and the oil and gas industry have poor records,” said Dr. Bonnie Eberhardt Bobb of Austin, Nevada, in southern Lander County. “Dangerous fracking fluids could seep in to our groundwater. Disposal of fracking waste by injection in to the ground has also been correlated with increased earthquake activity.”

This summer, Lander County Commissioners objected and filed administrative protests over BLM’s sale of oil and gas fracking leases in Big Smokey Valley. Earlier this fall, the Lander County Water Board unanimously passed a resolution opposing any drilling or fracking in the Middle Reese River Valley, near Austin, due to threats to town water sources.

Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking seeks to protect Nevada's precious water, maintain the health and quality of life of Nevada communities, guard our air quality, improve agriculture and ranching, and preserve wildlife.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Op-ed: Nevada wilderness bill is wilderness in name only

Weak, bad political deals jeopardize Wovoka Wilderness.
from High Country News, by Kevin Proescholdt

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate is set to take up a deeply flawed Nevada wilderness bill in the lame-duck session. If passed, it would set terrible precedents for all future wilderness bills.

The bill, HR 5205, introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., bundles together seven separate Nevada lands bills, and after being amended by the House Natural Resources Committee, includes “special provisions” never before passed in any previous wilderness bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote or co-sponsored two of the separate Senate bills now in the House package, and he may likely try to pass HR 5205 through the Senate while the Senate remains under Democratic control.

Here’s why the bill deserves to go down: Its special provisions weaken the protection and management for the new Nevada wilderness beyond what the already-compromised 1964 Wilderness Act would allow. For example, bulldozers or backhoes would be allowed to build massive concrete water containment structures in wilderness -- so-called “guzzlers” -- to artificially boost wildlife populations beyond what the habitat would otherwise provide. Unlike in every other wilderness, where motor vehicles are prohibited, these manmade guzzlers would likely be serviced in perpetuity by water trucks.

It is true that special provisions are usually supposed to deal only with the wilderness being designated by that particular bill, but the history of wilderness bills shows that such special provisions are often replicated and expanded in subsequent wilderness legislation. Therefore they tend to lead to a corrosion of standards for the entire National Wilderness Preservation System, weakening the very definition of wilderness.

But Nevada’s proposed law contains even worse provisions than the guzzler language; the House bill includes three precedent-setting provisions that have never before been passed Congress in any wilderness bill. These provisions are:

• Motor Vehicle Access for Hunting. HR 5205 would allow anyone claiming any kind of disability the right to drive trucks or motor vehicles into the wilderness for hunting or fishing. This would be a precedent-setting allowance. A similar provision helped sink the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act two years ago, but the House resurrected this terrible precedent in HR 5205.

• Logging for Wildfire Pre-Suppression. The House bill would allow logging roads, logging operations using trucks and heavy equipment, and the clearing of permanent fuel breaks in wilderness for any place that any local, state or federal agency might fear would burn some day. The logging provisions are bad enough, but the ceding of wilderness administration authority from the federal land management agency to a local or state agency is probably worse, and it is something that has never been done before.

• Livestock Grazing. HR 5205 declares that livestock grazing is compatible with wilderness. In one of the many special provision compromises embedded in the 1964 Wilderness Act, the law allowed livestock grazing in some wilderness areas under certain conditions, in places where it had previously existed. But it also treated livestock grazing in general as an incompatible, non-conforming use, subject to management and control by the federal wilderness-administering agency. The House language would turn the past half-century of policy upside-down, declaring livestock grazing as something to be encouraged in wilderness rather than discouraged, and it could open more of the wilderness system to its impacts, even in places where grazing has not previously occurred.

We certainly need to designate more wilderness areas in the West, and I hope we can so designate the 26,000-acre Pine Range Forest Wilderness and the 47,449-acre Wovoka Wilderness Range, but with this caveat: We need clean bills that don’t contain the weakening special provisions and that don’t set destructive precedents.

In this 50th anniversary year of the landmark 1964 Wilderness Act, it would be tragic if the corrosive provisions of HR 5205 were to pass into law and erode the standards of the magnificent National Wilderness Preservation System. Though the House of Representatives has already passed this unfortunate bill, let’s hope the U.S. Senate shows more respect for, and greater understanding of, our wilderness heritage and keeps these precedent-setting special provisions from becoming law.

Kevin Proescholdt is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the conservation director for Wilderness Watch, a national nonprofit.