Pipeline Threats Add Insult to Injury in Glacier National Park
By Katherine Boehrer
*Updated Thursday, July 12
We’ve all been feeling the heat lately. A record breaking heat wave has stifled much of the Midwest and East Coast, and some scientists are saying this could be a taste of what global warming will mean for the United States. Ironically, the National Park that is arguably most vulnerable to climate change, Glacier National Park in Montana, now faces the prospect of hosting more natural gas pipelines, thanks to a bill recently passed by the House Natural Resources Committee. Not only would pipelines carry a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, they could put a fragile ecosystem at risk and perpetuate dangerous fracking in the region.
The bill, H.R. 4606, was introduced by Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and would allow the Secretary of the Interior to issue right-of-way permits for natural gas pipelines located within Glacier National Park. Simply put, this is bad for Montana in just about every way imaginable.
Since 90 percent of all gas wells in the United States are fracked, a pipeline through the park would almost certainly carry gas obtained through this hazardous process, perpetuating all the problems that come with fracking. Fracking can contaminate the water we drink with methane, salts, heavy metals and radioactive compounds. It can also pollute the air and impose economic costs on local communities. A pipeline in Glacier National Park could make the entire state more vulnerable to this harmful practice.
In addition to the risks from fracking, allowing more right-of-way permits for natural gas pipelines within the boundary of the park could harm the park’s unique ecology and adversely affect local communities and visitors who enjoy Glacier National Park’s wild areas. The National Park System was established to protect our country’s most treasured natural areas from development. More right-of-way permits could lead to more pipelines being built within the park, going against this founding idea.
The final insult of this bill is that Glacier National Park is being slowly destroyed by climate change, with models predicting that the parks largest glaciers could disappear by 2030 or sooner. Natural gas, when burned, produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Natural gas obtained from modern fracking could be even worse—recent research has shown that methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, leaks from shale gas wells and distribution lines at an alarming rate.
Think the idea of pipelines in Glacier National Park is ridiculous? Want to do something about it? Tell the members of the House to vote no on this bill today.
Katherine Boehrer is a Food & Water Watch summer communications intern and a junior at Cornell University.
*Note: This blog has been updated with correct information about the bill to reflect that pipelines are already present in Glacier National Park, but that more right-of-way permits will enable more pipelines there.