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Fracking Along Colorado Front Range Threatens Clean Air, Climate

Guardians Calls on Feds to Abandon Plans to Auction Public Lands to Oil and Gas Industry

Additional Contact:
Tim Ream, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Campaign Director, (541) 531-8541

Denver—More fracking along Colorado’s Front Range threatens to smother the Denver Metro area with smog and carbon pollution, prompting WildEarth Guardians to call on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to cancel plans to auction off 13,000 acres of public lands to the oil and gas industry.

“At a time when the Front Range region is grappling with dangerous levels of smog, the last thing we need is more fracking,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director.  “The Bureau of Land Management needs to put the brakes on this runaway fracking train and keep our clean air, our health, and our communities safe.”

The latest proposal from the Bureau of Land Management represents a significant escalation in the federal approval of fracking along Colorado’s Front Range.  In response to industry demands, the Bureau of Land Management plans in May of 2015 to auction off 49 oil and gas lease parcels located in Adams, Arapahoe, Weld, Morgan, and Logan Counties east and northeast of Denver. 

A map of the lease parcels can be viewed here >>

In comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, WildEarth Guardians called out the agency for proposing more oil and gas leasing without conducting a regional analysis of air quality and climate impacts and before adopting safeguards to protect clean air and the climate.

“The Bureau of Land Management is rushing to open the door for more fracking without taking any steps to ensure our health, welfare, and safety,” said Nichols.  “This is a rotten example of the federal government kowtowing to the fracking industry at the expense of our environment.”

The parcels of publicly owned oil and gas would open the door for extensive fracking, much of it within the Denver Metro ozone “nonattainment area,” a nine county region along the Front Range that is currently out of compliance with federal health limits on ground-level ozone.

The key ingredient of smog, ground-level ozone forms when vapors from oil and gas operations react with sunlight.  Along Colorado’s Front Range, oil and gas operations, including fracking, contribute 60% of the region’s smog forming compounds, more than cars and trucks.

Although the State of Colorado has adopted rules to limit smog-forming compounds from oil and gas operations, recent studies by University of Colorado scientists have reported little progress has been made in curbing pollution.

Two studies in particular, both released this fall, report that emission estimates by the State of Colorado have been significantly underestimated and that, in spite of rules to limit pollution, smog-forming emissions from oil and gas continue to rise.

Not only is drilling and fracking fueling increases in smog, it’s pushing emissions of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that’s 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide—to unprecedented highs. 

Recent studies estimate that methane unleashed annually by oil and gas development in the Denver Metro area equals the amount of carbon dioxide released by nearly five coal-fired power plants.

The rise in oil and gas air pollution has been fueled by a surge in horizontal drilling in the region, a new fracking technique that has encroached into Front Range communities and public lands.  Weld County is now the most intensively drilled and fracked county in Colorado, containing nearly 22,000 wells. 

To date, the Bureau of Land Management has not analyzed the environmental impacts of fracking to ensure protection of health and safety in the region.

Guardians called on the Bureau of Land Management to abandon its plans to auction off public lands to the oil and gas industry and to adopt a moratorium on new fracking on public lands unless and until it can fully protect public health and the environment.  The agency expects to respond in mid-February.


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