Feds defer fossil fuel leasing across more than 30,000 acres
Growing pressure from community groups and environmental activists is paying off. Even in the heart of oil country, federal agencies are starting to take a closer look at the impacts of leasing land for fossil fuel exploitation.
This week, the Bureau of Land Management withdrew all Texas acres from a scheduled April 20 auction. In a notice published April 7, the BLM said the parcels have been deferred in order to further study the public comments received during the protest period.
The auction originally was to include more than 36,000 acres in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. After the deferrals, the total acreage for lease dwindled to just 2,306 acres. The Forest Service previously withdrew 31,169 acres of national forest lands in Texas from the auction in response to concerns raised by environmental groups and local governments about fracking impacts.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, fracking on the recently pulled Texas parcels could pollute water supplies for heavily populated areas of Dallas-Fort Worth, Denton, Brenham and Corpus Christi.
“The Bureau of Land Management was right to pull the remaining Texas parcels from this fossil fuel auction, but the reality is that no public oil and gas leases should be sold,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil and gas drilling destroys public forests for well pads, roads and pipelines, and fracking threatens watersheds and water supplies. Fossil fuels must remain in the ground if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change.”
A study last year showed the clear benefits of halting the exploitation of public lands for fossil fuels. A ban on new leasing would prevent up 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere.
Hundreds of people have turned out for “Keep It in the Ground” rallies opposing BLM fossil fuel auctions across the country in recent months, with several auctions being canceled.
“Thousands of Texans told BLM to stop this unwise fire sale, and they did the right thing,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter. “As BLM looks to the future, serious reforms are needed in its auction process so the public has an opportunity to raise concerns and insist on best practices, including keeping oil and gas in the ground.”
Considering the ever-stronger links between fracking, wastewater disposal and earthquakes, the city of Dallas Water Utilities also got involved, asking the BLM to remove parcels near Lewisville Lake from the auction. The utility cited concerns over potential contamination and risks to the reservoir’s dam.