Tag Archive for Sierra Club

Lawsuit Challenges Oil Shale, Tar Sands on Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2013
5:18 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust, (801) 300-2414
John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435) 259-1063
David Garbett, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 486-3161
Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351
Matt Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 546-0214
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 x 102

 

Lawsuit Challenges 800,000-acre Oil Shale, Tar Sands Plan Across Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

DENVER, Colo. – July 26 – A coalition of seven conservation groups sued the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday afternoon in federal district court in Colorado for allocating more than 800,000 acres of federal public land to climate-warming oil shale and tar sands development without undertaking formal consultation to protect endangered species.

The lands due to be mined are in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming within the Green River Formation, which the U.S. Geological Survey states contains between 353 billion and 1.146 trillion barrels of oil with “high potential for development,” — in fact, so high it holds 2 to 7 times as much as Alberta’s 170 billion barrels targeted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Vast mining, carbon emissions and water use will only worsen climate disruption and Colorado River drying,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with the Grand Canyon Trust. “This plan opens the door to that kind of development, and it does so while ignoring the plight of the creatures most vulnerable to its many impacts.”

“This citizen intervention is necessary because the Department of Interior is sending mixed messages to the public. On one day, the administration issues a statement that the Colorado River’s critical water supply will be protected for people and habitat, and then on another day they announce the most carbon intensive mining practice on the planet can move forward,” said John Weisheit, conservation director with Living Rivers. “The two programs are not mutually beneficial. Interior has to protect the Colorado River, there is no other choice.”

In March the BLM amended 10 resource-management plans, making 687,600 acres available for oil shale leasing and 132,100 acres available for tar sands leasing. The agency refused to conduct formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered species, as required by the Endangered Species Act, despite acknowledging likely impacts to those species.

“The Endangered Species Act requires agencies to consult with the experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service when they know listed species will be impacted,” said Matt Sandler, a staff attorney at Rocky Mountain Wild. “BLM has skipped this step, which will push these species closer to extinction.”

Mining for oil shale and tar sands would industrialize backcountry and destroy habitat, pollute and deplete water, and emit greenhouse gases. The allocated lands encompass habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, Mexican spotted owl and many other threatened and endangered species.

“Our public lands should be managed to protect our air, water and wildlife, not auctioned off for dirty and destructive fossil fuel development that will push us ever closer to climate disaster,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

CBD lawsuit BLM 4-state map

Thursday’s lawsuit comes as atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach 400 parts per million, a milestone in human history. Making fuel from oil shale and tar sands is an energy-intensive process of mining, heating, chemical treatment and refining. Its greenhouse gas emissions would far exceed that of conventional oil. For example, emissions from Alberta’s tar sands development exceed that of conventional oil by several times.

“The BLM should be managing these wild areas for the rich wildlife diversity and recreational opportunities they provide,” said Dan Chu, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, “not for dirty fuels development on a giant scale.”

The groups filing today’s lawsuit are Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Rocky Mountain Wild, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club. Many of the same groups on Monday challenged a new oil refinery in Green River, Utah, that could process fuels derived from oil shale and tar sands mined in lands subject to this lawsuit.

To download a copy of Thursday’s lawsuit, click here.

To download maps of the refinery and state and federal leasable oil shale and tar sands land, click here (high resolution [6.7 MB] or low resolution [1.7 MB]) (for media use).

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Fort Collins: Keep Fracking Moratorium

Fort Collins fracking ban was undermined 

For Immediate Release
April 15, 2013

Fort Collins, CO – Today, three citizens groups – Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Frack Free Fort Collins – asked the City of Fort Collins to keep its drilling and fracking moratorium in place to protect citizens from cancer-causing fracking chemicals. The moratorium was set to expire on July 31, 2013; the vote to terminate the moratorium is set for Tuesday night, April 16th.

On Tuesday, March 5, 2013, the Fort Collins City Council passed a ban on fracking that grandfathered in the current driller, Prospect Energy LLC, allowing that driller to drill and frack on its eight currently occupied well sites in northern Fort Collins. However, three weeks later on March 19, on a flipped and contested vote, the Council passed an “Agreement” with that driller that included opening up 1,280 acres (2 square miles) of new land inside the City of Fort Collins for drilling and fracking surrounding the Budweiser brewery. The “Agreement” with the driller effectively undermines the ban and was moved forward to the Council with no public meetings or Council work session beforehand.

As a result, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Frack Free Fort Collins are requesting that the moratorium stay in place and that a new Agreement with the driller be negotiated.

Although the Council originally voted 5-2 for the ban on fracking, the vote flip-flopped three weeks later when Mayor Weitkunat and Councilmember Horak joined in an anti-environmental majority and voted to open up 2 square miles for new drilling and fracking. Ironically, in the weeks leading up to the ban, Horak publicly positioned himself in the media as an anti-fracking supporter garnering a large front-page story in the Fort Collins Coloradoan and other stories in the regional media. Horak even publicly stated that he proposed the ban and helped write the language for the ordinance. Horak was quoted in the Fort Collins Coloradoan as saying:

“This will ban fracking in 99.9 percent of Fort Collins and avoid a very costly lawsuit with the current operator,” Horak said.

But three weeks later, Horak flip-flopped and voted to open up 2 square miles of land in Fort Collins for fracking. Horak’s role in the fracking ban was clouded in controversy from the beginning. A month before the vote, Horak attended a “closed-door meeting” with the Matt Lepore, State Director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. About the closed-door meeting, Lepore was quoted in the Fort Collins Coloradoan as saying:

“We didn’t want to have an open meeting,” Lepore said. “We wanted to reach out to those (on council) who we understood were maybe a little bit more undecided on their positions.”

“The moratorium needs to stay in place,” said Shane Davis of the Sierra Club. “The citizens in northern Fort Collins, especially those living around the Budweiser brewery now and in the future, are at risk of contamination from cancer-causing fracking chemicals.”

“Horak voted to open up 2 square miles of Fort Collins for fracking,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action, a national group that advocates against fracking in cities across the Front Range of Colorado. “When the public and media were watching, Horak positioned himself against fracking, but three weeks later in a quieter vote, he flip-flopped.”

“Horak deceived the public,” said Rico Moore of Frack Free Fort Collins. “His flip-flop votes do not represent the values of Fort Collins or of his very liberal and environmentally minded district.”

A map of the “Undeveloped Acreage” – 2 square miles surrounding Budweiser brewery that is now open for drilling and fracking – is here: http://water.clean.home.comcast.net/~water.clean/FoCo-frack-field-UDA.jpg.


Gary Wockner, PhD
Colorado Program Director
Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CleanWaterActionColorado
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/CleanWaterCO1
Web: http://cleanwater.org/co
303-405-6755 (office)
970-218-8310 (cell)

Our Longmont, others act to protect fracking ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 11, 2013

CONTACTS:
Kaye Fissinger, 303-678-7267 (Our Longmont)
Michael Bellmont, 303-678-9470 (Our Longmont)
Bruce Baizel, 970-903-5326 (Earthworks)
Shane Davis, 303-717-4462 (Sierra Club)
Sam Schabacker, 720-295-1036 (Food & Water Watch)

Coalition Acts to Protect City of Longmont’s Ban on Dangerous Hydraulic Fracturing

LONGMONT, CO – Today, a coalition of community, public health, consumer and environmental organizations filed a motion in the Weld County District Court to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Longmont’s ban of the oil and gas practice known as “fracking” and related surface activities, such as storage of toxic post-fracking fluids. This ban was instituted by the citizens of Longmont in an amendment to the City Charter, Article XVI , the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act.

The people of Longmont by an overwhelming vote of 60% (more than 25,000 people), voted in the November, 2012 election to amend the City Charter to ban fracking, affirming their intention “to protect themselves from the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing, including threats to public health and safety, property damage and diminished property values, poor air quality, destruction of landscape, and pollution of drinking and surface water.” This historic ballot measure was spearheaded by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).

“We are taking this action because we hope to affirm the rights of citizens and communities to guarantee a safe and healthy environment for themselves and future generations,” said Michael Harris, Director of the University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law Environmental Law Clinic. He continued, “We are honored to represent Our Longmont, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club and Earthworks.”

The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals certain inalienable rights. These rights are expressed in the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, which requires that oil and gas resources be extracted in a “manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare.”

“The extraction process of hydraulic fracturing has not been proven to be safe,” said Kaye Fissinger, managing member of Our Longmont. “Further, the State of Colorado has created a situation where the commission that oversees the oil and gas industry has an inherent conflict of interest. It cannot simultaneously foster the development of oil and gas and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.”

“The dangerous, toxic practice of fracking has been a matter of grave importance to the people of Longmont since October of 2011,” said Michael Bellmont, spokesperson for Our Longmont. “To assure the protection of those in our community, Our Longmont undertook a petition drive to place the charter amendment on the ballot. In November, our citizens exercised their rights to self-determination, also guaranteed under Article XX of Colorado’s Constitution. In light of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s attack, it is necessary that citizens participate in the judicial process to guarantee our constitutionally protected rights. It is for this reason Our Longmont and others have moved to intervene,” Bellmont said.

Food & Water Watch provided invaluable assistance to Our Longmont throughout the effort to qualify and pass Longmont’s charter amendment. Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Regional Director for the organization, said, “We were delighted to be able to help the citizens of Longmont prohibit the dangerous industrial practice of hydraulic fracking and are pleased to be able to continue to support them. We have every confidence that the courts will reject the claims of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and preserve Longmont’s constitutional and home rule rights.”

According to Eric E. Huber, Senor Managing Attorney for the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, “This lawsuit could have a precedential effect throughout Colorado as other communities work to pass similar prohibitions on fracking and the disposal of its waste products within their boundaries.”

Bruce Baizel, Director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, said, “The citizens of Longmont took this action because they don’t trust state regulators to protect them. Rather than sue communities acting to protect their public health, industry and the state should be addressing legitimate community concerns by putting the public’s health before industry profits.”

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, is a group of concerned citizens from throughout Longmont. We believe that Longmont has a constitutional right to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our community. Our goal is to preserve the quality of life in our exceptional city. By so doing we will preserve our economic vitality, our home values, our water, parks, wildlife, lakes, trails, streams, open space, and recreational areas for ourselves and future generations. www.ourlongmont.org,

Food & Water Watch is a consumer organization that advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and access to safe and affordable drinking water. It’s essential that these shared resources be regulated in the public interest rather than for private gain. www.foodandwaterwater.org,

Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide, including 160 members in the City of Longmont. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. http://rmc.sierraclub.org

For 25 years, Earthworks has been dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions. http://www.earthworksaction.org.

Video: The Truth About FRACKING

VIDEO SHOWING
Saturday, July 7, 2012
2:00 pm – 4:45 pm
Longmont Library, Rooms A & B
409 4th Ave.

Learn about heavy industrial drilling and fracking technology. Hear about the dangers to our health, air, water resources and property values in Longmont.

Presentations by Wes Wilson, retired EPA engineer; Phil Doe, Environmental Issues Director for “Be The Change”; and Shane Davis, research biologist, Sierra Club.

More information at www.LongmontROAR.org

Oil and gas industry ignores safety

Most of the natural gas industry has turned its back on reasonable public health and environmental protections, and government oversight and enforcement needs to rebalance the equation.

As one of America’s oldest and largest environmental organizations, the Sierra Club’s oil and natural gas policies have evolved as we have learned more about adverse effects on our health and environment, as science evolves, and as we identify operational failures by both the government and industry.

The harms caused by the entire process of producing oil and natural gas must end. Despite claims to the contrary, groundwater contamination caused by drilling and fracking practices is prevalent and must be brought under control.

In February, Shane Davis, the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter Oil & Gas Research Manager, announced statistics on a sampling of 1,000 spill reports from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) website, dated after 2008. Davis stated, “We know that in Colorado, 43 percent of all spills contaminate groundwater, and 100 percent of all spills contaminate soils with toxins like deadly benzene, ethylene, toluene and xylene. There are horrific volumes of toxic and radioactive liquids that are never recovered from groundwater and soil.”

Compounding the problem of spills, drilling and fracking operations are running in the heart of Colorado communities. We are alarmed that state and local governments continue to allow heavy industrial activities as close as 350 feet to occupied residences. The industry’s operations are far from Best Management Practices (BMPs), due to their inherent failure rates. Overturning the numerous federal exemptions would be the first step in implementing BMPs for the oil and gas industry.

The Colorado School of Public Health states that people living within a half-mile radius from active oil and gas production suffer a greater risk for health complications and illness. If a resident complains of industrial odors to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, they often take 48 hours to respond, allowing the pollution to dissipate, eliminating the chance to properly investigate the report, and offering no answers for the homeowner. Some dangerous vapors are not even detectable by the human nose. There are no studies on the health impacts of drilling pad air toxins, and we agree with The Denver Post editorial board that comprehensive health impact studies are needed. In the meantime, Coloradans are exposed, yet unstudied, guinea pigs.

How do Colorado families protect their health and safety if an accident occurs next to their home or children’s school? We believe this hazardous industrial activity must not continue to be exempt from human and environmental health protections, or allowed to operate next door to homes with growing children, elderly people, and other vulnerable populations.

The Sierra Club holds COGCC accountable in its mission, part of which states, “Responsible development results in … the prevention and mitigation of adverse environmental impacts.” COGCC can no longer be allowed to fail in this mission. The commission, the governor, and the industry should not be publicly defending the impacts of drilling that uses fracking. They should be mandating protection over profit. Every day we hear more about families being unable to drink their water due to fracking.

Colorado needs to move forward with our abundant, clean, inexpensive, healthy, jobs-generating, domestic, and renewable energy supplies. Because of the hazards created by production and consumption of coal, oil and natural gas, we need to move beyond these fuel sources as expeditiously as possible. Natural gas is a bridge fuel to further harming the planet, including our local environment and human health.

Rushing ahead to drill and burn more oil and natural gas while allowing the industry to operate in secrecy with inadequate protections will continue to harm people and wildlife, squander clean water, air and soil, and slow the development of cleaner forms of energy. We must act now for a better energy future.

Joshua Ruschhaupt is director of the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter. Other members of the Oil & Gas Team contributed to this commentary.  Reprinted with permission from the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter.