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Fracking problems and federal lands

The new fracking method of oil and natural gas extraction continues to make news.
It made news with proposed regulation on which the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is seeking public input.
In Tennessee, it made news with weak regulation adopted by our state legislature in May and a “frackademia” issue invoving the University of Tennessee.
More air time came with coverage of fracking’s risks to water, livestock and farming operations, community stability and economics and an increasingly near-omnipresence across the land.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported confirmation by the Environmental Protection Agency that fracking, after power plants, is now the “No. 2 emitter of greenhouse gases.”
Responsible for 225 million metric tons of these emitted in 2011, the fugitive methane gas from drilling operations, pound for pound, also is far more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the climate.
In Texas, the Department of Transportation reported the cost, “conservatively,” of repairing farm-to-market roads damaged by drilling activity to be $1 billion in 2012, plus another $1 billion for local roads, not incuding highways and interstates.
Nearly 1,200 truck visits, the BLM estimates, are required to develop a single fracking well.
Prolonged drought under changing climate threatens new dust bowls in our southwest and western regions.
Last year, 2,245 counties representing 71 percent of the country’s landmass were declared disaster areas because of drought, by the USDA.
Due to the Rio Grande being “dry for eight months,” only one-fifth of a normal year’s acre-feet of water will be released to rural communities and farmers that depend on it, this year, as reported by Nation magazine.
Yet water-intensive fracking is booming.
Over more than 19 months in 2011 and 2012, the World Resources Institute found, 25,000 shale gas wells consumed as much water as 2.5 million Americans need in a year.
Of hundreds of thousands of fracked wells around the country, nearly half are in water basins rated as suffering “high or extremely high” water stress.
One might ask if hunters, hikers, campers and other recreationists will be greeted by oil rigs and thousands of trucks servicing them, in the Cherokee National Forest in the future?
In Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest citizens saw nearly 4,000 oil and gas wells drilled during the last seven years? Will these forests, cradle of most of our river systems, continue to be safe water sources under such gas and oil extraction onslaught with the new, fracking method?
The BLM’s Proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Rule for the federal public and tribal lands fails to address some fundamental public-health and environmental concerns raised by citizens.
It omits, for example, mandates for water testing and disclosure of the chemical substances that are ground-injected or otherwise used in the fracking process.
Without them, public health officials cannot guard against toxics seeping into the water table nor track changes in air and water quality that might be fracking related. Nor can communities or lawmakers hold drilling companies accountable if contamination should occur.
The proposed rule can be viewed on the Bureau’s website and public comment can be submitted until Aug. 23. Find it at