Victory on the Hoback!
UPDATE 10-5-2012: VICTORY! Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead announces Hoback lease buyout deal.
Thanks to the support of thousands of activists, PXP has agreed to sell its leases to our partners at The Trust for Public Land, which will permanently retire them.
Not far from Jackson Hole, the Hoback River is treasured for its clean water, spectacular scenery, and thriving native cutthroat trout fishery. The Hoback River system is extremely valuable as a pure drinking water source and a destination point for the region’s recreation-based economy.
The river is treasured by local residents and tourists alike for its paddler-friendly rapids and superb fishing opportunities. The forested slopes and meadows surrounding the river provide vital habitat for migratory big game herds and dozens of other wildlife species, including the threatened Canada lynx and grizzly bear. Springs, seeps, and beautiful wetlands characterize its upper reaches, which flow through a roadless area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. It’s so treasured, that in 2009, Congress designated the Lower Hoback as a Wild and Scenic River.
In addition to significant sedimentation risk from well construction and other development, the river’s clean water is threatened by industrial chemicals and toxic wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” process.
Many water wells across the Rocky Mountain west are suspected to have been contaminated by natural gas activities, and similar pollution could impact the Hoback. Near the Upper Hoback, drilling wastes may be buried onsite creating future contamination sources. Three proposed underground disposal wells for wastewater would create additional pathways for cross-contamination.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is not requiring a comprehensive baseline analysis of the area’s surface and groundwater quality prior to development. So if contamination happens, it would be difficult to attribute responsibility to the drilling company. This threat of contamination would pose significant risks to public health and recreational uses.
What Must Be Done
Industrial-scale natural gas drilling in the river’s headwaters is a toxic threat to the Hoback and local residents. Unless the US Forest Service prepares a new environmental analysis and develops a true conservation alternative that fully protects the river, the Hoback will lose its unique wild character and local citizens could face serious health risks.