fracking | Food & Water Watch - Part 10
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Blog Posts: Fracking

September 10th, 2013

My Visit to Balcolme: Another Community Fighting Fracking

By Wenonah Hauter

Drilling rig in Balcolme

Yesterday I was at the bucolic village of Balcolme speaking with activists Kathryn McWhirter and Vanessa Vine about the invasion of their community by the oil and gas industry. Kathryn and her husband Charles are wine experts who have lived in the village for 10 years. Vanessa lives four miles outside of the village and until recently was a secretary at the local school. These women, both mothers of grown children, are the backbone of their community. As dedicated activists, they have put their lives on hold, are sacrificing their careers and are putting their hobbies aside to fight for the future of their children and grandchildren.

Balcolme, just over an hour’s train ride south of London, seems too beautiful, too peaceful and too quaint to be the site of fracking or police violence. The train makes it possible for commuters to live in one of the most beautiful and verdant parts of England.

I shared a pot of tea with activists in Kathryn’s sunroom overlooking her very lovely English garden, where a few fancy heirloom chickens delicately paraded for our entertainment. I heard the sad tale of how the local laird, a beneficiary of Britian’s feudal land system (who is also a member of the village council) has betrayed his community. Simon Greenwood, the owner of 120 houses and numerous farms in the area, used his position on the village council to subvert the democratic process. When the paperwork allowing the exploration came up for discussion at the village council meeting, he didn’t bother to disclose that he had leased the land or that he stood to benefit from the deal.

In fact, there was no discussion at all about fracking at the 2010 council meeting where the issue was briefly raised and the paperwork granting permission sailed through. No community input was gathered and the permitting process defies logic and reason. No consideration was given to water resources or the effects of air pollution.

So today, the energy company Cuadrilla is using the dangerous procedure to explore for oil less than a mile from the Victorian era Ouse Valle Viaduct that provides water for 750,000 people. Ninety-two feet high and almost 1,500 feet long, with 37 circular arches, it could certainly be destroyed by seismic activity. The incessant noise from drilling is angering local farmers. Local residents despair of the damage to the endangered species and the countryside.

A peaceful protest camp has lined the road leading to the drilling for the past few months. During some periods, as many as 600 people have camped near the site. A recent march from the village included hundreds of people. Local residents like Kathryn and Vanessa have provided food and water and have often spent time at the camp themselves. The camp kitchen was quite impressive, full of local vegetables, nutritious foods and a fantastic bouquet of flowers.

As I prepared to catch my train back to London and to go onward with my travels, it was obvious that large numbers of police were gathering. This morning, I sadly read the news. A violent eviction of peaceful protesters was taking place.

Kathryn’s statement to BBC says it all: “We are horrified at the treatment of these dedicated people who have been here with our blessing for weeks now, helping us to protect our countryside, our health, our water, our air.

“The council is not acting today on behalf of the majority of residents of our village.”

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August 27th, 2013

On a Trip to Fracking Country, Hearing of Hardships Firsthand

Fracking victim Ray Kemble

By Jill Pape

On a recent road trip to Pennsylvania, I saw a sight that was both familiar and unfamiliar: fracking rigs.  Though I’d been working for the past year with Food & Water Watch and had seen countless images of fracking, it was my first time seeing the drilling process up close and personal. And out there in Pennsylvania, the sight of drilling rigs was hard to miss. Driving down the main road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, we saw well pads every few hundred feet — many just a stone’s throw away from neighborhood homes.

But beyond the familiar drilling rigs, much of what I saw in Dimock was a huge surprise. Where I’d expected to come across outraged citizens and families complaining about tainted water, what I encountered instead was chilling: silence.

Where were all the families I’d seen in Gasland, lighting their tap water on fire and speaking out about their fracking-induced migraines and mystery rashes? As we passed home after home of suspiciously quiet residents, the truth began to surface. Read the full article…

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August 19th, 2013

The Top 7 Things You Can Do to Protect Our Nation’s Treasured Lands

By Mark Schlosberg 

If you’ve been following our blog closely over the past few weeks, you know that the Obama Administration is pursuing plans to drill and frack for oil and natural gas on federal lands. But these lands are our lands, and include many treasured national parks that would be severely affected by nearby fracking activity. Moreover, although President Obama is considering moving ahead with fracking in order to combat climate change, drilling and fracking for oil and gas will actually exacerbate that problem. 

Read the full article…

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Protect the Wayne, Protect our Planet: Say NO to New BLM Fracking Rules

By Heather Cantino fracking for natural gas

My heart breaks when I think of the growing assaults on our commons –– on our air, our water and our public lands. In southeast Ohio, Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only national forest, has been abused for decades. Extensive logging takes place under false pretenses as “ecological management.” The area has been assaulted by “prescribed” burns, which are not even appropriate in eastern forests. ATV trails increasingly riddle the land. Non-native species invade wherever there is a disturbance. 

Recently, the Wayne National Forest faced an imminent gas and oil lease sale of over 3,000 acres, most of it in the Hocking River Valley. Maps of the parcels to be sold revealed all to be riddled with abandoned coalmines. Two cities in the watershed, Nelsonville and Athens, rely on the Hocking River aquifer as their sole-source drinking water supply.  The sale would threaten the drinking water of more than 70,000 people. 

Thanks to legal expertise provided by Nathan Johnson of the Buckeye Forest Council and to public alerts by community activists, dozens of formal protests, including letters from local officials and Ohio University, were submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency in charge of the sales process, in the final week before the October 7, 2011, public comment period deadline. The sale was canceled.

Despite further legal appeals by the Buckeye Forest Council and its state and national allies and by a dozen regional and national environmental groups, as well as thousands of petition signatures, rallies attended by hundreds of people and voluminous research and visits by community members and leaders, Wayne Supervisor Anne Carey concluded that a future lease sale could be conducted without an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This decision flew in the face of legal arguments that an EIS was necessary to evaluate risks of deep-shale drilling and high-volume horizontal fracturing. No new sale has been scheduled. 

Our region, long a sacrifice zone, was heavily affected by nineteenth and twentieth century coal mining and is just beginning to recover with an attractive university, healthy tourism and a nationally recognized farmers’ market and local food economy. The fate of this newly flourishing community now lies with the BLM and President Obama, putting it in grave danger. 

The BLM’s proposed rules for fracking on federal lands will not protect our water supplies from tens of thousands of pounds of undisclosed toxic chemicals, many of them known carcinogens or neurotoxins, used per frack. Casings inevitably leak, and acidic mine water makes well failure likely sooner rather than later. 

Furthermore, Ohio law permits unlimited water withdrawals from public waterways (each frack job uses as much as 10 million gallons of water). It also permits air emissions of volatile organic compounds, including the known carcinogens benzene and toluene, which average 23 tons per well according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There could be thirteen well pads in the Wayne forest in the next three years, each potentially containing 10 wells. Fracking and drilling there would add six million pounds of toxic pollutants to the air, excluding truck carbon dioxide emissions and methane leakage. 

Read the full article…

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August 16th, 2013

Protect New Mexico’s Cultural Heritage: Ban Fracking on Federal Lands

By Eleanor Bravo

Chaco Canyon Ruins

I’ve been a New Mexican for more than 30 years now. When I first arrived, I realized I found the place of my heart, a land where whatever thrives here holds on for dear life. I also found that the soul of the land dwells in a unique place we call Chaco Canyon or Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It’s a mysterious place once home to thousands between 850 and 1250 AD. The ruins of great houses still stand, showing architectural expertise and masonry techniques unique to their time.

I have visited the park numerous times over the years, and each time, have discovered something new, have seen something different and have felt the presence of past inhabitants. Pueblo descendants say that it was a special gathering place where clans converged for ceremonial purposes. But no one really knows for sure.

What I do know is that the canyon and all of its ruins are a treasure not only for New Mexicans, but for all people on Earth. Those of us who are privileged to walk the Earth today are indebted to these unknown architects for the vision they created in this once thriving center of North American culture, a spiritual place to be honored and respected. A national park today, the canyon is one of only 20 World Heritage sites in the United States, designated in l987 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as an example of world cultural patrimony.

Such a remote location, you must travel about 17 miles of bumpy, dusty or muddy road to reach the entrance of the park. Sometimes during a downpour, the road is impassable. The surrounding land is a checkerboard composed of Navajo land, public lands and those managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Leases for oil and gas drilling have already been granted in the area, Several years back, grassroots organizations pressured the then land commissioner to designate a 3-mile buffer zone around Chaco and all other parks in New Mexico, but that has never been formalized. Read the full article…

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August 15th, 2013

Protect Florida from Fracking: Protect Our Ecosystems, Our Water and Our Public Lands!

A Panther in the wild.By Lynna Kaucheck

The first time I drove through the Florida Everglades was on a misty morning. The cypress trees were draped in Spanish moss, egrets and other wading birds flew above a river camouflaged in grass and the alligators’ snouts barely broke the surface of the water in the canal. The Everglades struck me as almost prehistoric, and I half expected to see a brontosaurus wandering off in the distance. I had never been any place like the Everglades in all my travels, and I immediately fell in love.

Like most people, the ocean and the warm weather are what drew me to Florida, but treasures like the Everglades, our underground springs, coral reefs and diverse flora and fauna are what make me keep exploring and falling more in love with this beautiful state.

The oil and gas industry has been drilling in South Florida for decades, and plans to expand in the very near future. Over the last year, at least four oil and gas companies have applied for permits to drill in the region. Big Cypress National Preserve, an area in the Everglades that has been drilled on in the past, is being eyed as land ripe for expansion. Companies are looking to drill old wells and build new ones. However, more oil and gas drilling on this public land threatens nearby ecosystems, precious water supplies, agricultural production and the safety of our communities. Read the full article…

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August 13th, 2013

Already Smoggy Rocky Mountain National Park Could Become Even Smoggier with Increased Fracking on Nearby Public Lands

By Molly Geppert 

Having been born and raised in Colorado, I grew up enjoying all the natural wonders this state has to offer. My favorite place by far is Rocky Mountain National Park. When I was young, my family had the tradition of going there every Father’s Day and hiking to Emerald Lake. One year in particular stands out in my memory. I must have been about five, and my two younger sisters were three-and-a-half and just under a year old.  My dad carried my youngest sister in a baby backpack; she drooled all over the back of his head and down his neck the entire hike, which he found refreshing. My other sister was old enough to manage the hike herself and insisted on bringing her plastic 101 Dalmatians backpack. I was the adventurous one in the family, and would run ahead of everyone, only to be scolded for not staying within eyesight. 

Once we reached Emerald Lake, I immediately ran out onto a log that jutted into the water and promptly fell off.  Luckily, it was pretty shallow and I only got my shoes wet. However, this did make for an uncomfortable hike back to the car. While exploring near the water’s edge, I found a dragonfly larva under a rock and was fascinated by how alien it looked and how it could possibly transform into something so delicate.  My sister had put her Dalmatian backpack down to play, and when my mom went to pick up the bag, she noticed it was very heavy for a three year old to be carrying. She opened it to find it filled with books! My little sister did not complain one word about the weight that she had carried the entire hike. My sisters and I sat down by the lake and read books while our parents took a nap.  I remember how clear the water was, how cool the air felt even though it was summer, and the beautiful scenery. Read the full article…

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August 9th, 2013

Protect Inyo National Forest and Other California Treasures: Ban Fracking on Federal Lands

By Karina Wilkinson  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to the Eastern Sierras in California to fish, hike, sail and relax. I am fortunate that my grandfather owned a sporting goods store and was able to buy or, according to family lore, barter for a cabin in the Sierras. I grew up in Los Angeles, where in the 1970’s, the skies were yellow with smog a lot of the time, even more so than now. But for at least a week or two in the summer, we were able to go to a place with fresh, crisp air. 

I’ve hiked into the Yosemite Valley from Porcupine Creek, and all around Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining in the Inyo National Forest, including the Ansel Adams and Hoover Wilderness Areas. There are hikes to lakes and waterfalls and mountain passes, through Jeffery Pine forests and a wildflower hike with a series of cascades that in some years, thunder with water.  Some friends and members of my family have not taken to my hikes, since I go out even if afternoon temperatures hit 80 or 90 degrees, and reach an altitude anywhere from 4,000 to over 10,000 feet. I often walk for five to six hours with a break for lunch. 

Unfortunately, last year I couldn’t enjoy one of my favorite hikes, which connects to a former Native American trail, because in November 2011, a freak windstorm from the north blew down tens of thousands of trees throughout the Sierra Nevadas. The winds don’t normally come from the north, which is why so many trees fell and blocked formerly passable trails. Read the full article…

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August 1st, 2013

This is Our Land: Keep Fracking Out of the San Luis Valley and Away from Great Sand Dunes National Park

By Jes Walton 

Great Sand Dunes National Park
(Photo courtesy of Brian Dierks)

Every year, I looked forward to school fieldtrips to the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. Riding in yellow school buses full of kids and the smell of sunscreen. Trekking up the dunes for hours in knee-deep sand with colorful plastic sleds, and flying down the slopes in a matter of seconds. Watching simulations of the changing dunes in the education center and swimming in Medano Creek, which felt like being buried in fine, cool sand. My lunch always managed to have grit in it, and I always returned sunburned and happy. Sleep came invariably on the ride home. 

On these days, this land belonged to my classmates, and it belonged to me. It was our land, and we enjoyed it to the fullest extent.

Great Sand Dunes National Monument was created in the 1930s, when the integrity of Medano Creek was threatened by decades of gold mining around the dunes. It has been reclassified as a national park since my schooldays, which I assumed provided our beloved dunes with greater levels of protection. But, it’s happening again –the lands around this and other U.S. National Parks located above oil and gas deposits, are at risk of experiencing the negative effects of fracking, particularly if President Obama’s Bureau of Land Management gets its wish to pursue fossil fuel development near many of our nation’s parks. 

It may go without saying, but the Great Sand Dunes are located in the desert – one of Colorado’s most fragile ecosystems. Isolated dunes are a rare phenomenon, and this protected area in Colorado is just one of few in the world. Little Medano Creek plays a crucial role in maintaining these dunes by returning sand blown into the mountains back to the dune field. Humble endemic species and charismatic fauna like bison, elk, black bears and pronghorn antelope rely on this environment. This is their land.  Read the full article…

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July 26th, 2013

Treasured Parks and Water Quality in the Mountain West: Two More Reasons to Ban Fracking on Federal Lands

By Katherine Cirullo, Food & Water Watch

This blog is the first in a series highlighting national treasures that could be affected by natural gas development should President Obama allow fracking to move forward near federal lands.

Vast, otherworldly, humbling. This is red rock country. Notable to Utah, it is a place of wonder. It is a place where I have spent days happily lost, wandering about deep slot canyons and standing atop spires of sandstone, gazing out at fields of hoodoos that look as if they have been melted by the sun. I have spent nights wrapped in my sleeping bag beside canyon walls, craggy silhouettes against a sky spattered with stars. I have woken up to those same canyon walls illuminated pink by the light of dawn, beckoning a new day of adventure. Read the full article…

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