North Dakota’s fracking boom threatens to swallow one national park whole, warns a new report by the National Parks Conservation Association.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, comprised of three unconnected sections of rugged western Dakota badlands, is smack in the middle of the Bakken boom and already feeling the heat from flaring wells—as well as smog, light pollution, noise pollution and fractured wildlife corridors. And there’s more to come: the report estimates that some 45,000 nearby wells are expected at “full build out,” compared to the 8,500 currently in North Dakota, according to the state’s Department of Mineral Resources.
With each well, say the report’s authors, comes the additional threats of water pollution by highly toxic fracking chemicals and of water depletion in this arid landscape—each well, they say, requires millions of gallons of water to do the dirty work of fracturing rock deep below the surface in order to release gas and oil deposits.
Industry reps predictably downplayed the report:
"Right now the total US rotary rig count is less than 1,800. They're trying to suggest that there's going to be 45,000 of these things all at the same time dotting the landscape," industry advocate Steve Everley told the energy newswire Platts.
(The report, by the way, refers to 45,000 wells, not drilling rigs.)
Another industry spokesperson, Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance, dismissed the report as “complaining,” saying, “They just don't want development anywhere.”
However, the report states otherwise:
“The National Parks Conservation Association does not oppose oil and gas development, and it acknowledges that hydraulic fracturing provides real value to an energy-dependent nation. Our goal is to prevent an unexamined embrace of an oil and gas extraction method that can have far-reaching consequences for America’s most cherished landscapes.”
This national park, the landscape of which helped inspire a young Teddy Roosevelt to become the conservationist he did, isn’t the only one listed in the report.
Both Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks are also starting to feel the effects of nearby fracking.
And, as we mentioned earlier this week, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and protected areas further upstream are in Marcellus Shale country; and although they’re currently protected by a drilling moratorium, that could change as pressure to increase domestic energy production grows.
See the map below for the bigger picture.