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Massive fracking fire breaks out in New Mexico oilfield, forcing families to evacuate homes

Fracking chemicals

(NaturalNews) A giant oilfield located in the Indian reservation territories of Northwest New Mexico caused a major environmental disaster recently, after 36 oil and gas storage tanks caught fire, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that temporarily shut down a major highway and forced at least 55 residents living in the area to evacuate their homes.

According to reports, the fires began in San Juan County at a fracking site owned and operated by Oklahoma-based WPX Energy, which was given permission by the Farmington Field Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to drill the land back in December. Drilling by WPX ceased several months later in May, and the Albuquerque-based news outlet KOAT says that WPX had only been producing oil at the site for one week before the fires occurred.

The site of the disaster is located within the Mancos Shale deposit area, a geographical region of great interest for energy production due to its rich oil and gas reserves. Energy companies have been pushing to expand their operations within the region for some time now, and BLM's Farmington Field Office says it's already leased more than 90 percent of the land it oversees – more than 1.6 million acres of public land – to oil and gas companies like WPX.

However, BLM did so, according to critics, without properly assessing the environmental impacts of these massive operations, and now local residents and the environment are paying the price. The six wells that WPX drilled are only about six months old, and not a single one of them was installed in accordance with a proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Resource Management Plan Amendment.

"The site that exploded is a brand new facility that consists of six wells drilled to shale formations that have never been adequately analyzed for impacts and safety concerns," Mike Eisenfeld, the energy and climate program manager at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, wrote in an email to EcoWatch.

"In a leap before looking scenario, the federal Bureau of Land Management in Farmington, New Mexico has allowed WPX to proceed with these shale facilities discounting the inherent danger that has now become clear with the explosion."

Is it worth destroying the planet and our children's future for a quick buck?

Proponents of hydraulic fracturing insist that the collective reduction in energy costs is worth the risk of these types of disasters, which are becoming increasingly more common. But is it really in the best interests of our planet and our children's future to allow Big Energy to rape and pillage our earth for a quick buck in order to sell us "cheap" energy?

The costs to our water alone, which is being polluted in almost every locale where fracking is taking place, are tremendous. People who live near fracking operations are also reporting health problems they believe are associated with the practice, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into underground rock in order to break it up and release fossil fuels.

The human and environmental impacts of fracking are obscene, to say the least, with the average "frack" requiring upwards of 8 million gallons of water and up to 40,000 gallons of chemicals to be successful. And a single well can be fracked up to 20 times, which translates to 160,000,000 gallons of water and 800,000 gallons of chemicals being dumped.

"It seems like every month we see more wells here, and things are going to get worse if the drilling doesn't stop," warns Kendra Pinto, a counselor chapter outreach intern from WildEarth Guardians. "At this rate, what will be left here for our children? ... Enough is enough."

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