“Trump and Zinke are once again putting our most valued public lands at risk by proposing to frack near Petrified Forest National Park,” said Becca Fischer, a Climate Guardian with WildEarth Guardians. “This lease-anywhere approach is the hallmark of an administration that will do anything for the oil and gas industry at expense of the American people. We deserve better.”
“It’s appalling that the Trump administration would consider this reckless plan that puts Arizonans and wildlife at risk,” said Taylor McKinnon, a public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Public health, precious water and wild places shouldn’t be sacrificed for corporate profits.”
“Accidents are inevitable, and if these leases go through, water could be contaminated and local communities could be harmed,” said Lisa Test with NoFrackingAZ. “As children, we are taught to look both ways before we cross the street. Why then is BLM pushing these leases without first assessing the dangers ahead?”
The sale today is a part of a Trump administration policy issued in January that requires the BLM — the agency in charge of oil and gas leasing — to offer industry-nominated parcels for lease.
Additionally, under this new policy, the BLM is foregoing legally-required analysis of any potential harm to land and water, skipping tribal consultations, and deferring all environmental analysis until the drilling stage, after development rights are sold to industry. Groups sued to block the policy in July.
“By skipping environmental reviews, the BLM is opening the door for corporations that could inflict lasting damage on the water that we depend on,” said Monte Cunningham of the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center.
”What we don’t know can hurt us, which is why it is critically important to evaluate impacts and any potential harm prior to moving forward with these leases,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “The public has a right to know what harm may be caused early on and to have the opportunity to speak up against it and for iconic places such as Petrified Forest National Park.”
Driven by high helium prices, companies are targeting the Holbrook Basin for helium, oil and gas development. State permits for helium fracking in the area show that companies will inject acid and other chemicals to help fracture rock layers 150 feet above the Coconino aquifer, a critical regional water source.
“Our precious aquifer, which just about everyone depends on, is largely unprotected and at real risk of both unmonitored fracking contamination and significant down drafting,” said Tony Tangalos, resident of Taylor, Arizona. “Those risks and this lease sale are unacceptable and unconscionable.”
More than 80,000 people have sent letters opposing the lease sale, including U.S. Representative Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.). Residents of Navajo and Apache counties formed a new organization, NoFrackingAZ, opposing the plan with more than 2000 local signatures. Formal administrative protests from 158 locals and several conservation groups also urged the BLM to cancel the sale.
“We are outraged by this administration’s continued pandering to big business,” said Eleanor Bravo with Food & Water Watch. “These irresponsible practices will cause grave and irrevocable damage to our precious natural resources and public lands. We call for an immediate halt to this dangerous and irresponsible leasing.”
“Unless everyday people stand up and say ‘no’ to these proposed sales, Arizona’s wildlife, water, and families are not safe from the oil and gas industry’s desire to drill and frack every place it can,” said Kelly Fuller, energy campaign coordinator for Western Watersheds Project.
The lands in today’s auction straddle the Little Colorado River and Silver Creek, home to two federally-threatened species — the Little Colorado spinedace, a silvery minnow-like fish, and the yellow-billed cuckoo, a bird known for its distinctive call.