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Amy Mall’s Blog

Former BLM scientist: the BLM fails to perform state-of-the-art environmental management

Amy Mall

Posted November 20, 2012 in Health and the Environment, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Stan Olmstead is a BLM retiree who spent 20 years with the agency. He retired in September from his job as a natural resource specialist and environmental scientist in Utah. Before he left the agency, he wrote a memo expressing his concern that it has strayed from its environmental mission. Mr. Olmstead wrote that "The U.S. government has all the abilities to perform state-of-the-arts environmental management and yet we continue to fail." He called on the BLM to change its practices in order to fulfill its mission and sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Mr. Olmstead's statements capture how we feel about the BLM's proposed fracking rule. As we've said, we are very pleased the BLM is working on a new rule for fracking projects subject to federal oil and gas leases. The BLM's current rules are outdated and in desperate need of revision. But we've also blogged before about how the BLM's draft rule is too weak -- it does not go far enough to protect drinking water from the risks of fracking. And it would definitely not lead to the "state-of-the-art" environmental management for which Mr. Olmstead is calling, even though the BLM can hold industry to higher standards and the industry has the technology to comply with stronger safeguards. Some other excerpts from his memo

  • "As civil servants we are obligated to all Americans to perform the BLM mission. Yet our elected, appointed and agency administrators ask us to focus on commodities and economics as opposed to environmental health. Commodities and economic gains are easier to measure."
  • "Protection of healthy soils, vegetation, clean air & water and a natural fauna are the true products, which we should diligently promote before commodity extraction. Science teaches us to not act until we know that harm will not occur to the natural system."
  • "Plugging and abandonment of well sites have not been a priority. Numerous oil & gas wells have not produced for more than 15 years and yet these sites remain un-reclaimed." Oil and gas wells that are not properly plugged present a very serious risks to groundwater.

  • "The air within the Uintah Basin continues to be fouled in our effort to maximize energy and economic gain."

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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