March 7, 2012

Who’s Fracked Next?

Photo by Progress Ohio

Fracking is everywhere.

It’s on the loose. Communities all over America fear that the fracking industry will zone in on their home, if it hasn’t already.  While nearly all those outside of the gas and oil industry are anti-frack, it’s easy to see why fracking still has traction. The practice has grown large and quick, picking up momentum and with it, the favors and energy that come from such a large force of industry. (If you aren’t sure what fracking is, a description can be found here.)

Look at the geographical reach of this thing.  Earth Justice offers a state-by-state map displaying fracking sites and known “Fraccidents” which are defined as “poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, industrial disasters and explosions”.

Is your state included?

The issue is a daily news-maker, with folks struggling to understand the dangers and the alternatives:

Event: ‘What the Frack?’ Panel Discussion from the people of the United Methodist Church of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

California Regulators Turn a Blind Eye to Fracking from the Environmental Working Group research documenting the use of fracking in six California counties: Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Rex Energy Cuts off Families’ Access to Safe Drinking Water after Contamination from Fracking from Protecting Our Waters reporting from Conoquenessing Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

Federal Scientists Warn New York of Fracking Risks reporting concerns from the The U.S. Geological Survey.

Southern Illinois Judge Grants Natural Gas Rights From More Than 1000 People Without Their Permission from the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club.

We here at elephant journal have more than a few articles on the topic.

Even in places where fracking hasn’t yet taken a mighty foothold, such as Choteau, Montana, there’s concerned community groups trying to avert a facility near their homes. In an Associated Press article  the County Commissioner there says,

“This is a topic that catches everybody’s eye,” said Jim Hodgskiss. “We’re trying to be ahead of the curve, but we haven’t been able to figure out where the curve’s at.”

Though the practice of fracking abounds, there are many groups (scientists, physicians, environmentalists, civic leaders, church groups, working citizens, you name it) with hard arguments as to why fracking doesn’t belong in our suite of energy sources. Many Americans are pleading with government officials to stand up for the safety of our communities and the balance of the Earth. The intensity of the distaste and concern is revealed in this press release issued this week from the Environmental Working Group:

Photo from EcoWatch

On March 5, more than 100 organizations—including environmental, religious and public health groups—expressed concern about President Obama’s endorsement of hydraulic fracturing and shale gas drilling in his recent State of the Union address.

“Amid mounting evidence of the harm and significant costs associated with drilling and fracking, it is premature to declare that government investment in shale gas drilling has been a success,” the groups wrote in a joint letter sent to the White House on March 5.

The groups, which represent more than 3 million supporters in 16 states, questioned the president’s statement that the U.S. sits atop a supply of natural gas that “can last America nearly 100 years.” They also disputed the claim that natural gas “will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade,” an estimate based in part on a study funded by the natural gas industry. The president repeated the job creation estimate in recent speeches on energy policy at the University of Miami on Feb. 23 and in New Hampshire on March 1.

“To consider an industrial process that has contaminated water supplies, caused rampant air pollution and disrupted communities across the country a success story is misguided,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a non-partisan advocacy organization headquartered in New York State. “Our nation needs an energy policy based on solid, independent science, not industry hype.”

The 109 groups noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently conducting two studies to determine whether hydraulic fracturing can contaminate water supplies. One of the studies, focused on the town of Pavillion, Wyo., has already found that fracking had likely contaminated groundwater.

“We now know that the results of fracking with unknown chemicals have included earthquakes in Ohio, contaminated drinking water in Pennsylvania and spoiled farmland and rivers wherever wastewater is dumped,” said the Rev. Jim Deming, minister for environmental justice for the Ohio-based United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries. “The administration must take concrete, meaningful steps to safeguard the health of our citizens and protect the natural resources of our communities from this unregulated industry.”

Congress has granted the industry major exemptions from important federal environmental and health protection laws, including the Clean Air, Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water acts.

“Homeowners across the country have had to witness first-hand what happens when the shale gas industry is left to regulate itself,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which drafted the letter. “We hope the administration will temper its enthusiasm for fracking until the EPA has completed its studies. We urge the president to work with Congress to not only require disclosure of fracking chemicals, but also to ensure that this industry no longer gets a free pass when it comes to compliance with major federal environmental laws.”

According to the Bloomberg news service, the job number cited by the president comes from an industry-funded study conducted by the consulting firm IHS Global Insight, whose Executive Vice President, Daniel Yergin, served on a federal shale gas advisory committee. In August 2011, EWG, along with federal and state lawmakers, scientists and public interest organizations objected that Mr. Yergin and five other members of the advisory committee had ties to the natural gas and oil industry. The committee’s final report sidestepped the crucial question of whether fracking should remain exempt from most federal environmental laws.

More from the EWG here.

Photo by Bosc d'Anjou

I’m encouraged by the 109 groups that power this message.  Here are four places I recommend you turn to for information and anti-frack information and outreach:

EcoWatch – Features an up-to-date news aggregate from local environmental sources. The inclusion of around-the-country events and scope is utterly important.  Considering the widespread presence of fracking and individual community concerns such as unemployment, civic needs and public health concerns, it’s essential that information be customized and relevant.

Gasland Blog – Offers readers opportunity to share their story and join their national registry. The Gasland folks promise to deliver thousands of testimonies to Congress this Fall. The site also includes clickable action including a searchable event and organization database, public official contact function, and action alerts.  You can also watch a short video and learn more about getting the movie to the masses. I think I’m most impressed by the share-your-story concept, uniting the voices of  many worried families.

Food and Water Watch – This group has proven successful resolving many food and water-related issues.  While fracking may seem to be an issue for greens only, the potential for water contamination is what’s scaring folks that typically take longer to digest green issues and side with environmentalists.  The FWW has a grasp on what’s at stake for many Americans. The website includes links to relevant research, a stay-informed function, tools and learning center and intelligent blog.

Delaware River Keeper – Includes printable fact sheets, a database of relevant correspondence (great for research in preparation for your own outreach),  E-activist function, free publication registration.  This group is prominent and efficient, a good example of coherent activism and community service.

Photo by Bosc d'Anjou

Of course there’s more, so many more, particularly those that focus on local issues. And keep in mind, this problem is not just limited to the United States. According to Easy Being Greener, over 30 other countries are considering fracking as a means to meet their energy needs.

Has fracking impacted your community? If you’ve got a active anti-frack group or event to suggest, please comment below.


Editor: Tanya L. Markul

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