On May 16 the Arizona Water Board granted the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s (ADEQ) request to dismiss an appeal of the Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) they had granted to Prize Energy to drill for helium using the dangerous practice of "acid fracking." Their reasoning is a serious threat to citizens’ ability to protect Arizona’s water, easily our most precious and endangered resource.
"Fracking" involves potential contamination of water to increase the rate of releasing resources (e.g. helium) even though it can be extracted by conventional drilling. The process presents clear dangers to the Coconino Aquifer, which provides water to over 40 million people in three states (AZ. NV, CA) and Mexico, like most of Central Arizona Project's. Check POWAZ.org’s website for more detailed information.
After ADEQ issued the APP to Prize Energy, people filed an appeal of the decision. Many of the same people and groups had successfully put APP applications on hold, after successfully pointing out in a lawsuit that the BLM hadn’t followed its own rules in issuing them. We had great hopes of achieving the same result in the appeal of Prize’s APP.
POWAZ’s expert, Dr. Kevin Gibson, spent over 20 years working with Saudi ARAMCO, the world’s largest oil producer. The Saudis would never even consider fracking anywhere near a potable aquifer. In Dr. Gibson’s words, if you tried such a thing, ‘heads would roll.’ In Saudi Arabia, you can take those words literally.
In the present situation, ADEQ told Dr. Gibson that he didn’t have ‘standing’ as an appellant because his personal well was upstream from the proposed drilling site, and his water would not be in danger. While there are dozens of reasons for opposing the project (Again, I refer you to POWAZ.org), dismissing the appeal because Dr. Gibson’s personal well is upstream from the danger is among the most chilling.
The Water Board’s ruling says that a concerned citizen or group cannot take action to stop the issuance of an APP, unless their personal water source will be put at risk, no matter their qualifications for doing so. How many personal wells will be put at risk because the owner didn’t even know there was the possibility of an APP being granted upstream from their well?
The appeal wasn’t dismissed because it contained faulty information or because its concerns were conclusively proven to be false. It was based on a technicality that ADEQ didn’t even inform the appellants about, until it was too late to correct.
This attack on our ability to take civic action sets a dangerous precedent, allowing countless gallons of water to be given away, for free, while we remain in an extreme drought. Let your voices be heard!