Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 2, 2017

Contacts:  Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 925-2521,
Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE, (801) 243-9089,
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3051,

Trump's Utah Fracking Plan Challenged as Urgent Public Health Threat

SALT LAKE CITY― Conservation groups today challenged a Bureau of Land Management plan to lease 94,000 acres of public lands for fracking in Utah’s Duchesne, Uintah and Emery counties ― a rural region with air quality as bad as Los Angeles due to decades of fossil fuel development.

The administrative protest details the agency’s failure to address how fracking will worsen pollution and threaten endangered species and public health in the area, as required by federal law.

“The Uintah Basin’s already choking on oil industry pollution, but the Trump administration is ignoring air quality in its rush to frack every square inch of public land,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This leasing plan disregards grave risks to public health and endangered species in favor of short-term profits for fossil fuel companies.”

Parcels to be auctioned in December are located in and near Utah’s Uintah Basin, where ozone pollution already exceeds federal limits. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to list the region as a non-attainment area this fall, which will require additional steps to control ozone.

Fracking causes most of the basin’s ozone pollution, but the BLM has refused to analyze whether more fracking would exceed federal ozone standards, a requirement under the Clean Air Act. Health studies have linked ozone exposure to still births, premature death and other health problems.

“Air pollution studies have documented what can only be described as a pollution crisis created by the existing oil and gas activity in the Uinta Basin. A pollution crisis will inevitably lead to a public health crisis, and there is preliminary evidence that one may already be occurring with high rates of perinatal deaths in the Uinta Basin,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “The health risks go well beyond ozone and particulate pollution. Although VOCs are not addressed by EPA national standards, they likely represent the greatest toxicity to the population, especially for infants and pregnant mothers. Under these circumstances, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment join many other groups in calling for an immediate suspension of new leasing in the Basin.”

The BLM failed to adequately analyze the greenhouse gas pollution that would result from more fracking or the impacts from that pollution. It also failed to ensure the protection of several endangered species, including the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and Mexican spotted owl. The Endangered Species Act requires the agency to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect those species from fracking. 

“It is unacceptable that BLM is moving forward with this lease sale, ignoring concerns from Governor Herbert and the public,” said Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “This land has incredible value to its residents and visitors, and allowing drilling to occur here would threaten the area's precious cultural and natural resources. This decision continues the Trump administration’s attack on our national parks and public lands. Our parks and public lands are for Americans to enjoy and explore, not to be exploited for fossil fuel industry profits.”

Download a copy of the protest here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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