eco-briefs

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Jim Ross/NASA

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS PROTEST BLM OVER PLANS TO INCREASE FRACKING ON FEDERAL LAND 

The Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations are protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to allow 16,342 new oil and gas wells across 2.5 million acres in western Colorado. They contest that the new expansion will endanger wildlife and diminish the water supply.

The groups argue that the predictions for Grand Junction and White River BLM districts are grossly underestimating the amount of water that will be required. The new estimate is that each well would require 250,005 gallons of water. However, groups claim water use for horizontal drilling between 2011 and 2014 averaged 3.8 million gallons per well.

Speaking to The Denver Post, BLM spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo said agency officials “will review all the protests received and determine what, if any, action is necessary.”

Colorado and several other oil producing states have challenged the BLM in a joint lawsuit, which claims the bureau cannot impose fracking regulations on federal land as federal law permits states to regulate oil and gas operations. The litigations originally stemmed out of Wyoming and North Dakota.

The regulations issued March 20 mandate companies dispose of water safely, drill according to set standards and reveal the chemicals they inject when drilling. Industry companies have claimed that the new regulations will increase delays and cost.

—Matt Dubois

STUDY FINDS THAT LARSEN ICE SHELF C IS THINNING AND COULD LEAD TO A RISE IN SEA LEVELS.

A new study, co-authored by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher, shows that the Larsen C ice shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the largest on the continent, is Boulder Weekly thinning from above and below.

The international study, published in The Cryosphere, a journal of the European Geophysical Union, is intended to help better understand and evaluate Antarctica’s contribution to a future rise in sea levels.

The adjacent Larsen A and B ice shelves collapsed in 1995 and 2002, respectively, and for years scientists were unable to determine the root cause. Climbing air temperatures or warmer ocean currents were both theorized to be causing the Antarctic Peninsula’s ice shelves to diminish in volume and become more vulnerable to collapse.

“Ice shelves strongly regulate the flow of glaciers into the ocean, and when they weaken or collapse, this flow increases, often substantially,” said Dan McGrath, a researcher at CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, in a news release.

The news release added, “Quantifying the changes occurring to Larsen C and other ice shelves around the continent is essential for informed predictions of sea-level rise.”

The study found that the Larsen C Ice Shelf is becoming more compacted due to increased melting, which is caused by a warmer atmosphere. Additionally, the shelf is losing ice from the changing ice flow and warmer ocean currents.

The Antarctic Peninsula has experienced a temperature increase of 2.5 degrees Celsius in the last 50 years. The region is believed to be one of the quickest warming areas on the planet. Antarctic researchers predict that a collapse of Larsen Shelf C could suddenly occur within this century.

—Matt Dubois