Are Your Favorite National Parks Under Threat From Drilling? Find Out
I love our National Parks — and so much of our federal, public lands. I hiked in the Shenandoah last month, camped on BLM land just outside Arches a few weeks ago and played in the Escalante earlier this Spring. Last summer I went to a couple of our iconic National Parks — the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and Yosemite.
That’s why reading a new reportfrom the Center for American Progress, makes me cringe. Many of our lands managed by the National Park Service are under threat from oil and gas drilling. CAP’s report found 30 places where drilling could take place in the future, and 12 where it is already happening. Here’s their map below.
Why are these lands under threat? Jessica Goad explains:
These existing mineral rights are either inholdings—where an individual owns a piece of property completely surrounded by a park unit—or are non-federal subsurface mineral rights, which are frequently referred to as “split estate” where the federal government owns the surface of the land and a private entity owns the right to access the minerals below the ground. Private individuals or companies owned these mineral rights before the parks were created and have the legal right to access them.
Our current laws help protect our park land from this kind of development, but that could be changing. Goad writes:
But this time-tested process is now threatened by some politicians in Washington—influenced by the oil and gas industry—who propose to roll back or even completely eliminate federal oversight of energy on public lands in favor of more relaxed state regulations. This shift in management oversight of drilling in national parks would be more dangerous to maintaining the balance needed to develop our national parks to their full and varied potential, thereby placing the 42 areas highlighted above at an even greater risk.
Oil and gas drilling is a dirty business that, if done improperly, has the potential to do substantial harm to national parks and other public lands. Drilling involves not just the construction of rigs but also roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure. Toxic chemicals such as naphthalene and benzene are sometimes used in oil and gas drilling and production activities. There is also the equally real threat of spills, which are frequent both onshore and offshore. One estimate found that in North Dakota in 2011 alone there were more than a thousand spills of oil, wastewater, or other drilling fluids.
In fact the Romney campaign has come out in favor of opening up more of our federal lands for fossil fuel extraction and he wants diminished government oversight — taking the federal government out of the picture and handing permitting to states. It’s a recipe for disaster in some of the most important and amazing places in this country.