Mitt Romney’s Fracking Hit List

From The Rolling Stone. No Author Attributed

If Mitt Romney is elected president, expect drilling for fossil fuels to explode. The Republican challenger has promised to double the number of drilling permits issued for federal lands. And that boom would go unregulated: Romney has blasted the current administration’s “effort to crimp natural gas by federal regulation of the very technology that produces it.”

The technology in question is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Recovering oil and gas through fracking requires drillers to inject huge volumes of water and noxious chemicals under high pressure into shale formations far below the earth. The polluted water, now laced with heavy metals and often radioactive materials, is then returned to the surface and then stored in open pools before being trucked off to treatment plants ill-equipped to handle the brew – which is so toxic that it can wipe out forests.

Acting on behalf of Dick Cheney’s former drilling firm Halliburton in 2005, the Bush administration exempted fracking from compliance with the Clean Drinking Water Act. So it’s no surprise that fracking has repeatedly been linked to contaminated groundwater, both from toxic runoff and even from the gas itself. Fracking could also be devastating to our climate: While the natural gas burns much cleaner than other fossil fuels, methane is itself a powerful greenhouse gas. And a 2011 Cornell study concluded that gas leaks associated with fracking make the practice “worse than coal and worse than oil.”

Virginia’s George Washington National Forest

This 1.1 million acre national forest reaches as close as 100 miles from Washington, D.C., and provides drinking water for more than 250,000 people. Under the Obama administration, the Forest Service has proposed a 15-year ban on fracking in the forest, half of which sits atop the Marcellus Shale - a reserve of nearly 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Environmentalists believe the moratorium would never survive a Romney administration.

Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park

The Blackfeet reservation sits atop rich oil reserves that can only be tapped through fracking. Oil firms have leased nearly 1 million acres of reservation land – including along its western edge, next to Glacier National Park. The superintendent of Glacier has requested federal environmental review of all drilling on the reservation, citing risks to sensitive populations of grizzly bears, park air quality and the impact industrial oil operations on the park’s spectacular views. Fracking impacts could also wreak havoc far downstream: Snowmelt from Glacier traverses reservation lands to join the Missouri River. More than 30 exploratory wells have already been drilled. A Romney administration would assuredly greenlight more.

Monterey County, California

A Romney administration could bring runaway fracking to the nation’s bread basket. California’s central coast is famous for its breathtaking scenery, world-class wines and astonishingly productive farmland. It also sits atop the Monterey Shale – a massive reserve of oil, estimated as large as 15 billion barrels. Fracking’s water contamination is a grave threat to the region’s $8 billion agriculture industry. The Bureau of Land management has begun leasing the land for new drilling, but no oil companies yet have permits to drill.

Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River Basin is host to three national park units (most famous: the Delaware Water Gap), providing recreation to more than 5 million people on a river so clean that it provides drinking water to more than 15 million. With the cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers, there’s a temporary moratoriumon fracking in the basin. If that expires, an estimated 18,000 natural gas wells are expected to pockmark the watershed, threatening wildlife and human health.

Wyoming’s Noble Basin

The Noble Basin is national forest land at the gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. In 2009, Congress put 1 million acres off limits, but companies like PXP have grandfathered leases – and designs to drill more than 100 natural gas wells. Obama’s Forest Service is currently subjecting PXP’s plans to a strict environmental review, but a Romney administration could quickly approve drilling operations.

North Carolina’s Sand Hill

North Carolina’s state GOP is eager to get into the fracking game, overridding a veto by the governor to move forward with the drilling of the state’s Triassic Basins. The state’s geology puts North Carolina ground water at heightened risk for contamination – with the safe drinking water of 2.4 million in jeopardy. Environmentalists point to North Carolina as proof of the need for national clean-water safeguards that can’t be flouted by cheap-to-buy-off state politicos.

Utah’s Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Late in the Bush administration, the federal government leased lands adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah to oil and gas interests. (Environment and climate activist Tim DeChristopher was ultimately jailed for submitting fake bids to disrupt the assault on this landscape.) One of the first actions of Obama’s Interior Department was to revoke the leases in 2009. A Romney administration could just as simply put them back on the block.

Ohio’s Suburbs

Far below the Marcellus Shale lies an even a larger formation called the Utica Shale that extends deep into Ohio and contains an estimated 38 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, plus nearly a billion barrels of oil. Drilling rigs are already encroaching on the suburbs of Ohio’s big cities. Absent commonsense national regulation, Cleveland and Columbus could soon look like Fort Worth, Texas. “There’s urban drilling,” says Amy Mall of NRDC Action Fund. “They put some of their drill rigs in city parks in Fort Worth.” (Watch this time-lapse .GIF of shale drilling swallowing Ft. Worth.)

North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park

With advice from a top fracking CEO getting rich in North Dakota’s oil fields, Romney has proposed giving states ultimate authority over where to drill – even on federal lands within state borders. That’s bad news for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where oil platforms dot the viewshed, and where grandfathered oil and gas leases could actually lead to drilling within the park. Romney’s proposal would leave that decision up to politicians in the state capital, Bismarck, not Park Service authorities in Washington. Lax oversight in North Dakota led to more than 1,000 spills of drilling fluid, wastewater and oil last year alone.

Florida’s Everglades

You may be surprised to learn that there’s already oil and gas drilling in Big Cypress National Preserve, a national park unit adjacent to the Everglades. And during the GOP primaries, after Michele Bachmann called for expanded drilling in the Everglades, Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, expressed “cautious” support for the idea. Under a Romney administration, the Everglades could again become a target. “Giving states control is a huge concern,” says Christy Goldfuss, director of the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. “Especially in national parks.”