Hydraulic fracturing is another among a long list of untold losses that the indigenous peoples of North America have suffered. In the past decade alone, the U.S. EPA has stripped nearly 40 tribes of their ability to make fundamental decisions about hydraulic fracturing, agricultural pollution, and toxic waste dumping on their own lands.
Two recent accidents on tribal lands account for just 1% of oil and gas incidents in northwest New Mexico in 2019, according to statistics from the New Mexico Petroleum Conservation Division (OCD) . Since the latter two, 317 other accidents have occurred in the region, including oil spills, fires, blowouts and gas releases. There have been 3,600 oil and gas spills over the past decade, both smaller and larger.
A land steeped in centuries of indigenous history is now dotted with oil and gas wells, resembling more of an industrial landscape than a testament to the human-nature interface. The accident sites appear to escape the attention of the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which tribe members say has not listened to their concerns about the incidents. boreholes in the region. A rectangular grid of private lands, federal lands and off-reserve trust lands of the Navajo Nation is managed by the BIA on behalf of the Navajo and represents a conflict of jurisdictions, rules and different interests.
This frustration has sparked dozens of lawsuits – and more to come if the pattern doesn’t change. Tribes and environmental groups look to Home Secretary Deb Haaland – a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe – and her efforts to protect the Chaco region to gain a greater voice in federal oil decisions, gas and mining.
From the Navajo point of view
The most recent wave of drilling began around 2009 when land agents called Navajo families to the chapter house to sign oil leases under their homes. Families were thrilled with the signing bonus. What they did not know was that their land depended on vast petroleum resources. “When you have more than 70% unemployment and more than 70% of the population lives in abject poverty, you cannot blame them for having signed,” Daniel Tso, chairman of the health committee, education and human services from the Navajo National Council, says.
Tso blames both the Bureau of Land Management, which manages rental rights, and the Office of Indian Affairs, which manages land rights on behalf of those who live on Navajo Trust lands.
In February 2019, a burst water pipe went unnoticed due to its remoteness. By the time the situation could be corrected, more than 1,400 barrels of fracking sludge mixed with crude oil had leaked from the well site owned by Enduring Resources and found itself in a snow bath. Almost 59,000 gallons of slurry flowed more than a mile downstream to Chaco Culture National Historic Park. This network of historic archaeological sites holds Unesco World Heritage status and is of spiritual importance to the Navajo and Puebloans of the region.
“For a non-native person, they [are] ruins. But for an Indigenous Pueblo person, it’s still active sites that are used in a spiritual way, ”said Julia Bernal, director of environmental justice at the Pueblo Action Alliance, an Indigenous sustainability organization formed as a result of Standing Rock. . “The fight has always been: ‘These are sacred sites’. But non-native power is like, “Well, prove to us that these are sacred sites.” How can we prove it when it’s our beliefs? “
The slurry seeped into the bed of the Chaco stream and disappeared from view.
And it’s not just Navajo land that’s suffering from fracking. The Oklahoma Orwellian Commission on Cooperative Sovereignty is heavily represented by the oil and gas industry. Larry Nichols, founder and CEO of fracking giant Devon Energy, is chairman of the commission and Harold Hamm, a fracking pioneer, is executive chairman and founder of Continental Resources, which has holdings “recognized as being among the best oil inventories. deep in the industry. “
The Commission turned its back on the exponential rise in earthquakes in the region, attributable to hydraulic fracturing.
What is Fracking? Why is this so devastating for natural resources?
Over the past two decades, a fracking boom has helped the United States become the world leader in natural gas and crude oil production, which the Trump administration described in October 2020 as “a strategic asset for stimulate sustained and long-term economic growth. environmental goals; and the strengthening of US national security interests. A ban on hydraulic fracturing, they threatened, would result in the loss of “millions of jobs, spike in gasoline prices and higher electricity costs for all Americans.” Proponents of hydraulic fracturing say this increased use of natural gas – made possible by hydraulic fracturing – has improved public health by dramatically improving air quality in recent years.
What this report failed to note are the serious risks associated with hydraulic fracturing to the environment, our health, and the Earth’s climate.
Current hydraulic fracturing – or hydraulic fracturing – detonates huge amounts of water, chemicals, and sand in impermeable rock formations that contain natural gas or shale oil and other forms. The high pressures shatter the rock, allowing once-trapped gas and oil to flow to the surface.
The EPA has identified 1,084 different chemicals reported to be used in hydraulic fracturing formulas between 2005 and 2013; these chemicals, along with many others used in fracturing fluids, are considered hazardous to human health. In the EPA’s final report, he disputed that scientific evidence revealed that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under certain circumstances.
Human error and equipment failure due to hydraulic fracturing can cause spills and leaks, and some spills are known to have reached surface water resources. The NRDC argues that while the evidence continues to mount on the negative impact of hydraulic fracturing on our water, air and health, the industry remains severely under-regulated. Oil and gas operations benefit from a range of exemptions or limitations from regulatory coverage in core environmental laws that aim to protect Americans from contaminated water, hazardous waste, and polluted air.
Indigenous tribes seek systemic change from Biden administration
With the election of President Biden and the confirmation of Ms. Haaland, tribal communities are looking for more than vague promises. Among other efforts, they want changes to federal land use planning policy to minimize the environmental damage caused by energy projects. The intersection of federal land use and environmental and energy policy is also at the heart of the new administration’s tribal agenda.
Biden reiterated his campaign pledge that his administration will set a target to reduce US emissions to net zero no later than 2050. Perhaps at the global climate summit we will hear announcements about increased local protections for indigenous lands, especially from the devastating effects of fracking.
Image taken from NASA (public domain)
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