Central to life for humanity, wildlife, plants and insects, etc is water. Of all the current conservation issues facing the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, the Governor, the state legislature, and of course, the citizens of Arkansas is the preservation of water quality and the development and establishment of a state water plan. Arkansas must begin immediately to protect water resources from pollution and misuse by counties, cities, local communities, land developers, manufacturers and others. Throughout this section on “Current Issues” that discusses significant environmental issues that impact wildlife, wildlife habitat, clean air, healthy forest and our environment, water is central to every issue such as: Grand Prairie, Arkansas River, Corps Reform, Extraordinary Resource Waters, water pollution from the construction of the coal-fired generating plant in Hempstead County, pollution of the Ouachita River from the insertion of the pipeline, and the most dangerous and damaging impact on Arkansas water resources – natural gas drilling.
Hydraulic fracturing is a common technique used to stimulate the production of natural gas. Typically, fluids are injected underground at high pressures, the formations fracture, and the natural gas flows more freely out of the formation. Some of the injected fluids remain trapped underground. A number of these fluids, such as diesel fuel, qualify as hazardous materials and carcinogens, and are toxic enough to contaminate groundwater resources. There are a number of cases in the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing is the prime suspect in incidences of impaired or polluted drinking water. In Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, incidents have been recorded in which residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations of gas wells near their homes. Such cases are now being reported in Boone County, Arkansas. Despite the widespread use of the practice, and the risks hydraulic fracturing poses to human health and safe drinking water supplies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) does not regulate the injection of fracturing fluids under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials – unchecked — directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies. In our state, it is estimated from the first 1000 natural gas wells drilled in Arkansas, over four (4) billions gallons of these gas well fluids have been dumped on surface lands. To gain the enormity of this potential environmental nightmare, the natural gas industry has projected they will drill over 10,000 natural gas wells in the state. In Arkansas, the vast majority of these toxic fluids are trucked off site and dumped on surface lands. ADEQ has information records of where these dump sites are located. Thus, Arkansas has limited protection of water quality or water resources from the Environmental Protection Agency, ADEQ, Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology and now AGFC which recently leased 11,500 acres of the Petti Jean and Gulf Mountain Wildlife Management Areas for a $29.5 million payoff and 20% percent of the royalties.
You can not discuss any environmental issues without discussing their impact on Arkansas’ water quality and resources. Throughout its 172 years history, Arkansas has been fortunate to have abundant water resources with over 9000 miles of streams with 17 river waterways, at least 12 or more lakes, and numerous creeks too many to count. Arkansas is known for its water abundance which attracts millions of visitors annually who contribute over $5 billion dollars to the state economy and generate over 65000 jobs in the tourism industry. Arkansas is well known as a hunting and fishing paradise that attracts over one million hunters and anglers who spend at least $1 billion in Arkansas. Arkansas can not afford to endanger its most important natural resource – abundant water quality and quantity.
At this time, Arkansas does not have a comprehensive state water plan that promotes and protects this abundant natural resource. There are different state agencies such as the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality who have developed components of a state water plan, but do not represent a comprehensive state water plan. The Arkansas Wildlife Federation is urging Governor Mike Beebe to create a “Governor’s Commission on Developing a Comprehensive Water Plan” similar to the “Governor’s Commission on Global Warming.” AWF will work with other conservation groups and organizations, Governor Mike Beebe and the state legislature to promote this legislation for the 2009 Arkansas Legislative session. The Arkansas Wildlife Federation is committed to the preservation and protection of water quality and establishing a comprehensive state water plan. Water resources are the very substance of life and critical for present and future generation.
by Arkansas Wildlife Federation Arkansas Wildlife Federation