New Report Details How National Parks Are Threatened By Oil And Gas Drilling

Here’s another example of how “the score card shows that the industry is winning,” as the NY Times put it last year. The National Parks Conservation Association today released a new report warning of the risks that oil and gas drilling pose to national parks.

In “National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing: Balancing Energy Needs, Nature, and America’s National Heritage” the group writes:

…these early indications of harm to America’s natural resources and national parks suggest the wisdom of a careful, considered approach to hydraulic fracturing, rather than blind complicity and a zealous rush toward monetary riches.

National parks are managed under a precautionary principle designed to err on the conservative side of any potentially negative impacts. The same principle should be applied to fracking activities on lands adjacent to our national parks.

One of the case studies on parks already impacted by drilling featured in the report is Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The Bakken oil boom has brought with it noise pollution, bright lights that ruin the night skies, and significant traffic on the way to the park. See a short video about those impacts here:

The ways that oil and gas drilling can affect our national parks enumerated in today’s report include:

– Noise from compressors, diesel engines, and traffic disturb the quiet we seek in parks

– Visual blight on the landscape, such as oil wells and rigs that can be seen from inside parks

– Lights from rigs, cell towers, and additional infrastructure that damage parks’ famous night skies

– New roads, pipelines, and well sites that make it difficult for wildlife to live in the area

– Massive amounts of water used in the fracking process that may affect surface and groundwater within parks

– Diminished air quality inside of parks from the hazardous chemicals that drilling produces like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone

In addition to pointing out the impacts of drilling on national parks, the group proposes a number of policy recommendations, such as a “measured, thoughtful approach to fracking,” making the National Park Service a formal cooperating agency in decisions about drilling around parks, and implementation of strong federal oversight in the Bureau of Land Management’s upcoming hydraulic fracturing rule and regulations to cut pollution from oil and gas wells under the Clean Air Act.


Not only is drilling around national parks worrisome, as today’s report points out, but already there are 12 park units that have drilling inside of their borders, and 30 others that could have drilling in the future:

Oil and gas companies benefit from more special treatment than just the ability to drill in and around America’s most special places. For example, they get $40 billion in tax breaks, low royalty rates on public lands, and continue to rake in astounding profits.