SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Moab residents are worried about potential groundwater pollution if natural gas drilling that includes hydraulic fracturing is allowed in the scenic red rock country.
The Bureau of Land Management plans a Feb. 19 auction of energy leases on 80,000 acres in southeast Utah, including two parcels in direct view of Arches and Canyonlands national parks, according to The Salt Lake Tribune (bit.ly/PHFKe8).
"There was hardly any notice and there is a feeling that this is being fast-tracked for approval," Kiley Miller, who is gathering petition signatures to stop leases, said in a press release.
Miller, who is associated with the progressive organization MoveOn, indicated the group already has gathered 2,677 signatures.
Moab's economy is based on tourism and its beautiful scenery, and some residents are worried because the city's only drinking water source, the Glen Canyon Aquifer, abuts those two parcels.
The BLM is conducting an environmental assessment of the proposed leases to determine the potential impact, said Don Ogaard, chief of the leasing support section for the agency's Utah office. BLM officials said the report should be available for public review by the end of September. A 30-day public comment period will follow.
Gas exploration that includes hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" involves injecting pressurized liquid into shale.
The 80,000 acres are on federal land spread across Grand and San Juan counties in Utah.
Audrey Graham, a member of the Grand County Council, also expressed concern over the two parcels involving 3,600 acres near the national parks.
"We must insist on knowing the contents of all fluids used in the process, as well as requiring the highest standards and best practices to protect our drinking water," Graham said in a letter to the BLM.
The county council has not adopted a formal position on the lease.
Graham said she also is worried energy exploration near Moab could increase truck traffic and affect the air quality.
"Of equal importance is the fact that the impacts of drilling will be borne by the residents of Grand County, although the bonus mineral lease funds and property taxes will go to San Juan County," she said.