Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 7, 2017


Taylor McKinnon, (801) 300-2414,   

Congressman Pearce Pushes Fracking in New Mexico Despite Risk of Sinkhole Collapse, Destabilization of Nuclear Waste Disposal Site

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) sent a letter this week urging the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management director to resolve administrative protests and fast-track a federal fracking plan near Carlsbad, N.M., even though fracking-induced earthquakes could trigger collapse of a massive brine well sinkhole in Carlsbad. Officials say there is already a high probability that the Carlsbad brine well will collapse, which they estimate would result in more than $1 billion in damages, as well as lost lives.

The administrative protest to the dangerous fracking plan was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations in May 2016. It challenges the Bureau's failure to analyze the potential for fracking-induced brine well collapse and for fracking to destabilize the geology of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant — a Department of Energy facility that stores 119 million cubic yards of radioactive waste, including from nuclear weapons projects. The Eddy County location was originally chosen for the nuclear waste site specifically because it lacked oil and gas development and associated geologic risks.  

Despite the Bureau's failure to analyze those risks, Pearce's letter urges the agency to resolve the protest and enact the plan in order to transfer $69 million in fracking lease sale revenues to the New Mexico state legislature.

“Only Rep. Pearce would gladly put the people and environment of this region at such grave risk from a completely avoidable catastrophic event simply to generate fracking revenues,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center. “As usual, Pearce is thinking not of the people of New Mexico but only of the special oil and gas interests that continue to grease his jaded political journey.”

Since 2008 three large “brine well” sinkholes have collapsed in the Permian Basin — two in New Mexico. Brine wells are underground chasms formed when fracking operators inject freshwater into salt deposits to create salt water later extracted for drilling. Officials in Carlsbad have been conducting safety procedures to prepare for a collapse.

“By blatantly ignoring the facts, Congressman Pearce is putting New Mexican lives and property at tremendous risk,” said McKinnon. “If the brine well in Carlsbad collapses as a result of an earthquake from this careless federal fracking, the damage and lost lives will sit squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Pearce and the BLM officials all too willing to do his bidding.”

Download Pearce's letter here.
Download the Center's administrative protest here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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