Fracking Fight Moves to National Parks

by Elizabeth Alford on October 26, 2015

Just one month after a federal judge ruled to delay the Bureau of Land Management’s regulation of fracking on public lands, the National Park Service (NPS) has decided to step in with its own regulations.

Related: District Court Blocks New Fracking Regulations

The NPS wants to update 36-year-old regulations for non-federal oil and gas rights exercised in national parks, which would protect park resources and visitors from potentially adverse impacts. The proposed rule would raise standards for water quality and water quantity, air quality, night skies and natural sounds, visitor and employee health and safety, fish, wildlife and habitat and meet spill protection and reclamation standards.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to conserve park resources for the enjoyment of future generations and the changes we’ve proposed will clarify the process for oil and gas development in the small group of parks where current operations exist, and for parks who may manage operations in the future,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

There are oil and gas operations in 12 of the 408 parks in the National Park System, with many exempt from NPS regulations. The proposed rule would apply NPS regulations to all current and future oil and gas operations in the National Park System.

In a 2013 report, the National Parks Conservation Association recommended that policymakers require a “measured, thoughtful approach to fracking”. The report sites the visual impact and potential environmental issues such as:

  • Oil rigs are visible from several parts of the park – and natural gas flaring has punctured what was once one of the darkest night skies in the entire park system.
  • A well has been staked 100 feet from the parking lot of Elkhorn Ranch, the home of Theodore Roosevelt in the late 1800s and the place that helped inspire his conservation ethic.
  • Heavy truck traffic is likely to dramatically increase in areas servicing wells. The noise and dust associated with these vehicles can have a large impact on the experience of park visitors.
  • Visitors to Glacier already can see newly-drilled wells from the park’s mountain heights. Should the industry achieve anticipated full-field development, the scenic vistas and dark night skies at the park will be lost.

This video warns of the impact of continued oil and gas activity on our public lands.

Once the NPS publishes the proposed rule, the public will have 60 days to review the documents and submit comments.



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