NPCA Report Argues for a Balanced Approach to Conservation and Energy

Apr 30, 2013

By Center for Western Priorities

As the number of oil and gas wells in the West continues to skyrocket, there’s a new front line in the battle over the siting of new drilling. Our national parks—the most celebrated of all protected lands—are increasingly threatened by fracking, according to a new report by the National Parks Conservation Association.

NPCA Vice President for the Center for Park Research Jim Nations said: “Our research revealed that some national parks are already in peril. Unless we take quick action, air, water, and wildlife will experience permanent harm in other national parks as well.”

It’s possible that as many as 33 percent of parks could be impacted by energy development, causing declines in water and air quality, and negative effects on wildlife, not to mention a diminished visitor experience. The NPCA report shows that these unsavory changes are already occurring: 64 compressors outside Mesa Verde National Park elevated the average sound level within the park by 34.8 decibels, and on the side nearest the compressors, by 56.8 decibels. To understand the rise in noise, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that a “safe noise level” should be no more than 55 decibels to avoid damage to the human ear. The report also points out 10,000 oil and gas wells near Dinosaur National Monument have created ozone levels worse than New York City.

Our national parks are an American legacy, one that future generations will be able to enjoy for centuries to come. Exposing some of our most precious lands to oil and gas development jeopardizes that legacy in the name of profit.

Already, oil and gas drilling and fracking have impacted 12 national parks, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP), with the possibility of affecting 30 more. A recent video by the Center for American Progress shows what the effects of drilling on the doorstep of TRNP has done to the area.

Once the effects of expansive oil and gas development in or near our national parks appear, there is no going back. Oil and gas companies have shown they are willing to gamble by drilling near our water sources, neighborhoods, farms and treasured landscapes. The encroachment of drilling on our national parks should be a line in the sand and a sign that we need a more balanced approach when it comes to drilling, fracking, and conservation on our Western lands.