Naked City

Drilling OK'd on Padre Island

The National Park Service announced last month that BNP Petroleum Corporation's plan to drill for natural gas on Padre Island National Seashore had been approved. Environmentalists and some biologists are upset over the plans, concerned that the drilling – and the trips by large trucks to and from the proposed well site – will disturb nesting of the endangered Kemp ridley sea turtle. "These drilling permits are the fruits of an administration that would rather spoil America's natural heritage than protect our national parks and invest in renewable resources," said Chris Wilhite, a Sierra Club organizer, in a press release. "Turning the last, longest, undeveloped beach in the nation into a gas drilling highway doesn't make sense for anyone but BNP Petroleum. It makes no sense whatsoever for the Park visitors, most local businesses, jobs, the environment, or the wildlife."

The NPS and BNP, on the other hand, say the drilling will have minimal impact on wildlife, and that the legislation that first created the Padre Island National Seashore in the 1960s mandates that prior privately held mineral rights must be honored. The Sierra Club advocates a buyout of those rights, noting that the NPS's own analysis shows that the well will have minimal impact on the nation's natural gas supply. "There is only enough gas under the park to provide one day's worth of fuel for America," says Karin Ascot, chair of the Austin chapter of the Sierra Club. "It's simply not worth a drop in the bucket to turn Padre Island into an oil and gas patch. There's a better way."

The NPS says it will supervise the drilling closely, including park staff patrolling the beach daily during nesting season. The drilling is slated to begin some time this month; nesting season generally begins in April.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Padre Island National Seashore, BNP Petroleum, National Parks Service, Sierra Club, Kemp's ridley sea turtle, natural gas

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