Now more than 150,000 acres of public lands near Utah’s some of the most iconic landscapes offered for extraction of fossil-fuel under Trump administration. These lands are within 10 miles of protected areas that are internationally known.
The public lands leased for fracking by the Bureau of Land Management include spots near Bears Ears, Hovenweep National Monuments, and Canyons of the Ancients, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands national parks, and Arches. Utahns gathered in dozens at the state Capital in protest of the lease sale.
Ashley Soltysiak, the director of the Utah Sierra Club, said Utah is their home and reckless sale of their public lands is not acceptable to them, and that is also with limited civic engagement. Utahns demonstrated their commitments towards the transition from fossil fuel to clean energy by resolution passed in municipalities.
However, the rampant oil and gas lease sales undermine these commitments and put the economy, public lands and health under threat. Utah’s recreational and tourism economies are facing growing and grave danger in case of development of sacred cultural, environmental, and recreational spaces due to dirty fuel.
The sensitive plants and animals like Colorado pikeminnow, Graham’s beardtongue, black-footed ferret, and razorback sucker are under threat because of fracking in these areas. It also causes problems of air pollution in the Uinta Basin. At the time when Utah experienced the driest year in its recorded history, the use of a huge amount of water will also worsen the situation.
A public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, Ryan Beam said that spectacular public lands are on reckless fire sale for fracking and drilling. These public lands are the most iconic landscapes of West and even a single acre they cannot afford to lose. Fracking will waste the precious water, pollute the air and destroy the beautiful wild habitat that they need to protect for future generations.
Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have a broader agenda to use public lands for extraction of fossil fuel at the high risk of destruction of wildlife, damage to public health and climate change.
BLM offered more than 420,000 acres of public land in Utah in 2018 for extraction of oil and gas, and in March there will be the auction of another 215,000 acres. In this regard, the new policies issued by Trump administration to avoid substantive environmental reviews and making the period short for public-comment was challenged in court.
Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said Trump could not ignore the law to accomplish the target of fossil fuel industry. These policies have no scientific, legal and public support. The intention to make dominant use of public land for fossil fuel development is illegal.
Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said because of the short-sighted decision of BLM, red rock wilderness and most important cultural and archaeological resources of Utah are under threat. ‘Lease everything, lease everywhere’ approach of BLM for development of oil and gas needlessly threatens unique cultural history and famous red-rock landscapes for the dominance of energy.
The network of fracking wells, pipelines, compressor stations, and roads destroy public lands and ruin wildlife habitat. The pollution of river and groundwater is caused by toxic wastewater injection into the ground, and that also causes earthquakes which in turn results into damage of property and infrastructure.
The activities of oil industry release the dangerous toxin into the air and pollute the air that causes illness and even death. As per the report of the federal government, fossil fuel extraction like oil and gas production and combustion contribute to significant GHG emissions in the United States.