Fracking (short for hydraulic fracturing) is the process of shooting a highly pressurized liquid mixture into a drilled hole in the earth to create cracks in the bedrock. These cracks give access to fuels like natural gas and petroleum that we would otherwise not be able to harvest.
How does fracking impact drinking water?
Fracking doesn’t follow the Safe Drinking Water Act. There are a multiple reasons why fracking gets such a bad rap. The main reason is because the liquid injected into the ground and groundwater is infused with harmful chemicals, some are even known carcinogens. Shooting this liquid into the earth can lead to groundwater contamination. Another issue is that fracking requires an enormous amount of water. The water could be used for drinking or irrigation. Three to five million gallons of water can be used to frack a single well. For New Mexico, a state that experiences drought, an increase in fracking across the state – or even the continuance of a pro-fracking policy in the southeast area, could lead to devastating outcomes. The Bureau of Land Management’s regulations on fracking on public and tribal lands are more than 30 years old and were not designed to regulate today’s fracking technology.
The San Juan Basin in New Mexico is one of the most fertile areas in the world for natural gas. Fracking has occurred in New Mexico since the 1930’s. While the oil and gas industry has been fracking in New Mexico for decades, current techniques are more intensive and dangerous and have created a drilling frenzy facilitated by the lack of government oversight.
Is there fracking on Indian Land?
Absolutely. Approximately 500,000 oil and gas wells are active in the US. That includes 92,000 on public and tribal land, where about 13 percent of the Nation's natural gas and 5 percent of its oil are produced (according to statistics from the Interior Department). Ninety percent of wells that are drilled on Federal and Indian lands use fracking.
Is there fracking on Indian Land in New Mexico?
The Mancos Shale wells are in the Northwestern, New Mexico near Navajo Nation and Southern Indian Ute Tribe. The Mancos area is hardrock, and it was difficult to drill in the area. However, modern drilling techniques are helping. The new technology allows for horizontal drilling to reach trapped oil and gas. Companies from across the US have been targeting the Mancos Shale area. Eight companies have so far received permits to drill 45 wells in all three Mancos zones, with 22 now producing or ready to produce.
There are no fracking operations on the Navajo Nation, but the Tribe is active in oil and gas exploration. It owns and operates an 87-mile crude oil pipeline and is a retail and wholesale distributor of refined petroleum products. The tribe has rights to 150,000 acres of land on the reservation, where it plans to develop coal bed methane, oil and conventional gas resources. It also is exploring the feasibility of developing helium resources. Only allotted land is proposed to be fracked.