Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2021

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Sun editorial:

BLM land auction doesn’t have Nevada’s best interests at heart

Faced with an idea so bad it could literally be toxic, a cross-section of Nevadans are speaking out.

City and county officials, tribal leaders and environmentalists are working against a proposed auction of more than 550,000 acres of public land in Nye, Lincoln and White Pine counties for oil and gas exploration.

Should the sale be allowed to proceed as designed, it could result in a surge of fracking that would put Nevadans and our environment at risk. Among the dangers: It could taint the groundwater that serves as the main source of drinking water for residents of Mesquite and Bunkerville. And considering that regional water basins are interconnected, any contamination there could spread to Clark County.

That’s why the Mesquite City Council passed a resolution opposing the sale, and why Mesquite Mayor Al Litman is scheduled to appear Friday alongside members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes and Sierra Club for a news conference calling on the Bureau of Land Management to reconsider.

Others pushing back include Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Henderson Mayor Debra March and members of the Boulder City Council, which on Friday is scheduled to vote on a resolution opposing the sale.

This is commendable leadership.

The BLM is scheduled to decide Friday whether to remove parcels from the sale, and has until Nov. 12 to call the whole thing off.

At the very least, the federal agency should remove any acreage where fracking might pose even an outside risk to groundwater supplies.

But really, the entire venture comes off as a high-risk, low-reward proposition, given that Nevada offers little in terms of oil and gas resources. Meanwhile, though our desert environment may look rugged and indestructible, the reality is far different. For plants and wildlife, survival rides on a razor’s edge in huge swaths of the state where water and nutrients are scarce. The ongoing drought only adds to those stresses.

The BLM contends it will thoroughly assess the acreage, where any leases would be subject to site-by-site environmental analyses before any drilling or fracking could take place.

But the current presidential administration’s irresponsible stance on environmental protection breeds extensive distrust that the feds will safeguard the state. An administration that truly cared about stewarding the land as opposed to allowing it to be exploited wouldn’t have placed the BLM under acting director William Perry Pendley, who has written in support of selling all land owned by the federal government and tweeted that fracking was “an energy, economic, AND environmental miracle!”

The foxes are guarding the henhouse, folks. Short of the BLM shutting down the sale or reducing the acreage involved, Nevadans can only hope that oil and gas companies see so little potential that there will be limited interest in the auction.

So here’s a show of support to the Nevada leaders who are stepping up for the state, its residents and its environment.

Meanwhile, the public can join the stance against the auction by participating in a demonstration scheduled for Nov. 12 by the Sierra Club. The event will begin at 3 p.m. at Rancho Sierra Plaza, 4470 North Rancho Drive, where protesters will rally before marching to the BLM offices at 4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive. Other groups involved in the demonstration include the Center for Biological Diversity, Our Wild America —Nevada, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, the Western Watersheds Project and Nevadans Against Fracking.

For more information, a Facebook page for the rally is available by visiting facebook.com/events/2503766196338988.