RENO, Nev. (AP) — A rural Nevada group is asking a federal judge to block the sale of oil and gas leases it says will be used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other development that poses a much greater threat to sage grouse, fish and other wildlife than the U.S. government claims.
The Bureau of Land Management concluded in an environmental analysis in February that energy exploration resulting from the sale of the leases would have little or no impact across about 270 square miles of central Nevada's Lander, Nye and Esmeralda counties.
But leaders of Reese River Basin Citizens Against Fracking say those assumptions are based on unrealistic expectations that the little interest shown in Nevada's oil and gas historically will continue. They say the government also is ignoring a recently discovered shale deposit running from southeast Nevada into Utah that some believe could become one of the nation's most valuable.
"BLM fails to mention or consider the impact of the newly evaluated Chainman formation or the scramble to exploit this resource," said the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Reno. "The discovery of this rich shale deposit is a complete game-changer and renders any reliance on past and gas exploration unreasonable, if not disingenuous."
BLM spokeswoman Erica Haspiel-Szlosek said Wednesday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The Lander County Commission and the Center for Biological Diversity earlier filed protests over the BLM's plans to sell leases in 102 parcels around Big Smokey Valley between Austin and Tonopah on July 17.
Lawyers who filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of ranchers, alfalfa farmers and others said that besides wildlife threats, the fracking could suck millions of gallons of water from Nevada's high desert and undermine the region's seismic stability.