Many of the country’s richest resources for oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” exist in remote areas. Those same lands are home to hundreds of national park units. As fracking projects move closer to their borders, policies need to be in place to limit damage to the parks, warns a new report from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
Jim Nations, NPCA vice president for the Center for Park Research, said one issue is water – in terms of both quantity and quality. It takes up to 5 million gallons of water every time a well is fracked, and when a project is upstream from a park, that has an impact.
“Drawing down that water is a challenge for national parks. Also, the fact is that sometimes that water can be chemically-laced, can get loose and seep into streams that feed national parks, and can go underground and seep out in springs and little wells.”
Other risks to parklands that Nations noted include air pollution, damage to historical and cultural sites, and wildlife habitat fragmentation. He urged the National Park Service to be a partner when federal agencies issue well permits and plans, and he said comprehensive pollution-monitoring and control is needed at developments near parks.
Parks are not just about critters; millions of people visit national parks every year. Scenic changes and light pollution are noted in the report, and Nations outlined other effects on the park experience for visitors.
“Fracking a well can require up to 4,000 truck trips. You’ve got the traffic going back and forth; you’ve got people drilling; you’ve got air compressors going.”
The NPCA report contains an analysis of seven national parks already in the pathway of the fracking boom, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Glacier National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Approximately 400 properties are managed by the National Park Service.
The complete report, “National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing: Balancing Energy Needs, Nature and America’s National Heritage,” is available at www.npca.org.
Content provided on behalf of National Parks Conservation Association.