Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 6, 2017

Contact: Wendy Park, (510) 844-7100 x 338,

Texas Fracking Protest Expanded to Include New Water-pollution Risks

Records Show Hundreds of Wells Could Leak

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— Citing new records showing the potential for drinking water contamination around Corpus Christi, the Center for Biological Diversity today supplemented its legal protest to a federal oil and gas lease sale planned for Thursday.

The leases would allow fracking within and near several Texas reservoirs and dams that supply drinking water to Corpus Christi and other cities. Since its original protest was filed, the Center has obtained records showing that old plugged wells are leaking into the Choke Canyon reservoir.

A new map created by the Center, using Railroad Commission well data, shows more than 20 old plugged wells located in the reservoir, most less than 2 miles from the parcels in the proposed lease sale. More than 100 active oil wells and seven gas wells are within the reservoir — many within 2 miles of lease-sale parcels. There are also more than 100 unproductive wells scattered throughout the reservoir.

“The best way to protect Corpus Christi's water is for federal officials to pull the Texas lease parcels from this sale,” said Wendy Park, a senior attorney with the Center. “Fracking near and within drinking-water reservoirs endangers people and the environment. And it's especially dangerous and irresponsible in the face of lax enforcement, risks of more leaking wells, and the potential for fracking-caused earthquakes to compromise dams.”

Today's supplemental protest urges the federal Bureau of Land Management to drop several parcels from the lease sale because the BLM failed to analyze the risks of water contamination from leaking wells and the potential for new leaks due to increased fracking.

There are four leaking wells at Choke Canyon and hundreds of existing wells at Choke Canyon, Lake Somerville and Lake Texana that could potentially leak, according to public records. If new wells are drilled on new federal leases, more high-pressure fracking could push chemical-laden fluid into old wells, contaminating water supplies if the old wells leak. Fracking-caused earthquakes could also threaten the stability of dams.

The Center's protest cites the BLM's failure to consider Bureau of Reclamation recommendations for more analysis in the face of fracking-caused earthquake risks to Choke Canyon dam. It also notes that the Bureau of Reclamation has failed to finalize best management practices for oil and gas development around the dam, which raises questions whether the reservoir will be adequately protected in the face of new fracking.

Since the Center filed its original protest in February, public records obtained from the Texas Railroad Commission and Bureau of Reclamation revealed that four plugged wells are leaking gas, two within and two near Choke Canyon Reservoir, a primary Corpus Christi water supply.

After the leaks were publicly revealed, city and federal officials said they posed no risk. But records show that since then, federal, state and Corpus Christi officials have considered underwater inspections of the leaking wells. It's unclear whether such inspections have been conducted. Emails show that officials aren't sure who's responsible for re-plugging the wells and are skeptical that original well owners can be identified.

“The evidence suggests that regulators don't know much about these old leaking wells or their impact on the water supply,” Park said. “The BLM is basically ignoring the problem and encouraging new fracking in the same place. It's alarming that they're allowing this lease sale to continue.”

Conservation groups and the city of Corpus Christi filed formal protests in February challenging the leasing plan, raising concerns about spills, water contamination and earthquakes that could jeopardize dam integrity and harm downstream water users.

In April the Brenham City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the BLM's plans to allow fracking beneath Lake Somerville. The resolution cited concerns that contamination of the lake's water supply would be “catastrophic” for its residents. Lake Somerville is the city's sole drinking-water source.

Download today's supplementary protest here.
Download the February administrative protest here.
View the map of existing wells and proposed lease parcels here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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