Risky Oil and Gas Production Threatens Rare Butterflies, Bats in Allegan State Game Area
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.— The Center for Biological Diversity launched federal litigation today challenging the Bureau of Land Management for failing to protect endangered species like the Karner blue butterfly and Indiana bat by properly assessing the risks posed to them by fracking on public land being leased for oil and gas production in a game reserve in southwestern Michigan.
On Sept. 12 the federal government plans to auction off more than 27,000 acres of publicly owned mineral rights in the Allegan State Game Reserve but has not analyzed the harm fracking and drilling could do to all the area’s rare and protected species.
“Fracking pollution poses enormous threats to Allegan County’s water and to the endangered species in this important wildlife habitat,” said Marc Fink, a Center attorney. “The federal government has a duty to protect these beautiful public lands — not auction them off for dangerous drilling and fracking.”
A separate lawsuit, filed against the BLM in U.S. District Court this morning by an Allegan County couple, points out that the federal government does not appear to have given proper public notice of this massive auction of sensitive wildlife habitat. The Center, which brought a similar, successful lawsuit against the BLM in California last year, applauds the Michigan couple’s lawsuit.
“Fracking has no business anywhere near the Allegan State Game Reserve’s crucial wildlife habitat,” said John Davis, Jr., a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “My wife and I had to step up and take this on.”
“Across the country the BLM is auctioning off our public lands to be fracked, with little regard for the local people or wildlife,” said Fink. “We stand with John and Marybeth Davis’ resistance of the BLM’s irresponsible, illegal actions and call on the agency to cancel the lease sale scheduled for September 12.”
As set forth in the Center’s formal notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act, the arrival of fracking in this area would severely damage habitat that’s critical to the survival of endangered species, including the Karner blue butterfly and the Indiana bat. Yet the BLM plans to issue oil and gas leases while relying on an outdated management plan that doesn’t factor in the new dangers of fracking — a practice that blasts huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, into the earth to break up rock formations.
Studies and reports from other states where fracking is common suggest links between fracking and a wide range of threats to wildlife. Hundreds of dangerous chemicals are used in fracking fluid, including many that are known to cause cancer and disrupt hormonal and reproductive development; fracking wastewater is often stored aboveground, creating the risk of contact with wildlife and surface-water contamination.
A federal study released last week found that leaks of toxic fracking fluid caused a major fish kill in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork Creek. The spill, which was three miles long and involved fluid from four fracked wells, killed numerous species including threatened blackside dace, a small, colorful fish that lives only in Appalachia.
The BLM is currently developing a rule to govern fracking on public lands. Last month the Center for Biological Diversity, along with over 275 environmental and consumer organizations and more than 600,000 individuals, called on the BLM to replace its weak and insufficient regulatory proposal with an immediate ban on fracking on public lands.