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

July 23rd, 2013

Expansive Natural Gas Infrastructure Gets Push in House

By Liz Schuster 

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted in support of the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a bill that would streamline the permitting process for natural gas pipelines by placing mandatory deadlines on the agencies in charge of approving infrastructure projects. Having passed out of committee, it may now make its way to the House floor for a vote.

It is obvious the oil and gas industry is looking to expand its market overseas. In pursuit of foreign markets, the industry needs to first create an expansive infrastructure to export liquefied natural gas. But these pipeline projects will ensure increased drilling and fracking across the country, bringing with them a host of health and environmental problems for nearby communities.

More specifically, the bill would place the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) under a mandatory 12-month deadline to approve or deny any natural gas infrastructure projects. This 12-month deadline starts ticking as soon as FERC receives a completed application. Other federal agencies would have 90 days after FERC releases its environmental review of the project to act. If they do not, or do not meet the requirements to demand 30 more days, the projects would automatically go into effect 30 days after the window for approval or denial runs out.  

In April groups protested FERC for “rubber stamping” natural gas infrastructure projects. By limiting FERC’s time for review, the bill almost ensures cut corners and less citizen participation.  

Building more natural gas pipelines only locks us into a future fueled by dirty fossil fuels. America’s sustainable, energy independent future depends on true renewables, like solar and wind power. The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act may have passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, but it still has to survive a full House vote.  Please contact your House Member to tell them to vote against speeding up natural gas pipeline approvals.

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July 19th, 2013

Fracking Bans Spread Across Argentina, Global Resistance Grows

By Jaime Hamre and Katherine Cirullo 

The momentum of the anti-fracking movement is growing as concerned communities across the globe feel the threat of natural gas development. On October 19, activists around the world will join together for the second annual Global Frackdown, an international day of action and an opportunity to, as one unified community, send a message to protect our resources. In anticipation of this year’s Frackdown, we can’t help but point to the recent victories of the anti-fracking movement in Argentina as an inspiring example of global resistance. Read the full article…

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July 18th, 2013

You Can’t “Get Fracking Right” in Maryland, Governor O’Malley

By Jorge Aguilar

Photo CC-BY © Office of the Maryland Governor/Flickr.com

Leaders in the Maryland Legislature rejected a bill last session that would have placed a ban on fracking in the state, seemingly supporting Governor O’Malley in whatever plan he unveils for Maryland. The governor, in turn, has appropriated taxpayer money to conduct several studies to determine whether or not the long-term effects of fracking would be too detrimental to public health and the environment. In fact, Governor O’Malley has been telling anti-fracking advocates that the Old Line State will not turn into another version of Pennsylvania, where regulations are scant and taxes on the oil and gas industry are virtually non-existent. But more and more, we are seeing evidence that Governor O’Malley wants to turn Maryland into a natural gas-friendly state like Pennsylvania. Almost as if to demonstrate that very point, I got some news that is as surprising as it is frustrating.

State officials recently revealed to Food & Water Watch that Governor O’Malley has hired John H. Quigley, who served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources during the state’s rapid expansion of fracking, to help draft key fracking regulations in Maryland. The news is further proof that Governor O’Malley has already made his mind up to allow fracking and is moving forward with developing regulations to issue fracking permits in Maryland. Read the full article…

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July 17th, 2013

Good Governors Don’t Frack Their People

By Anna Meyer

What do kid-hosted lemonade stands, a Governor Hickenlooper impersonator and over 100 activists have in common? They were all part of a protest this past weekend in Aspen to tell Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper and the other members of the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA): “good Governors don’t frack their people.” Protect Our Colorado, a statewide coalition to fight fracking in Colorado’s communities, brought together children, activists and community members to join in the growing movement to support a ban on fracking.

Read the full article…

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June 26th, 2013

President Obama: Fracked Gas is Not a Solution to Climate Change

By Mark Schlosberg 

I watched with anticipation yesterday as President Obama delivered his speech laying out his new climate action plan. Climate change is one of the most pressing issue of our time, and one on which the United States desperately needs to lead. While it was heartening to hear the President take on climate deniers and pledge to fight the problem, his full-throated advocacy for fracked natural gas and oil was more a case of two steps back than a giant step forward.

Read the full article…

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June 24th, 2013

Frackademia – Corporate Siege Endures; Science’s Integrity Crumbles

By John Wufracking for natural gas

Industry funding of studies and universities presents a significant challenge to academic integrity, and the latest opportunity for influence — fracking on campus land — can also endanger public health and the environment.

Back in February, Food & Water Watch blogged about the University of Tennessee’s intention to open up 8,600 acres of publicly owned land in their Cumberland Research Forest for fracking.

Despite opposition from those in and outside the academic community, the plan moved forward. On June 7, 2013, the institution called for proposals for the “lease of oil and gas interests” – officially seeking bidders for drilling and fracking.

The University of Tennessee betrayed the public and the environment by putting up a figurative picket sign on the Cumberland Research Forest, a forest that has nurtured over 60 years of environmental research. 

Read the full article…

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May 9th, 2013

Fighting Back in Fracking Country

By Seth Gladstone

Ban Fracking!After enduring the harsh realities of fracking for almost a decade, the people of Pennsylvania are fed up. They’re sick – literally – of the poisoned drinking water and air pollution. They’re tired of the incessant noise and the truck traffic. And they’re coming to terms with the boom-and-bust reality of rural industrialization, environmental degradation and eventual abandonment that fracking inevitably brings.

Now the people of Pennsylvania are pushing back against the horrors of extreme gas drilling by taking matters into their own hands and making their voices heard. Recently they delivered more than 100,000 petitions to Governor Corbett and the state legislature calling for a moratorium on fracking in the state. 20 large boxes, each filled to the brim with page after page of residents’ signatures, were hauled into the Statehouse. With that, the people had spoken.

“Pennsylvanians are disgusted with fracking,” said Food & Water Watch statewide organizer Sam Bernhardt. “They’re organizing street by street and town by town – at churches, at colleges and at coffee shops. Across the state, local officials have been feeling the heat from residents for years, and now our leaders in Harrisburg are feeling the heat as well.”

Many of the residents working so hard for a moratorium are motivated by the personal tragedies beset on their families by fracking. Sadly, these families are a large and growing constituency. The Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air maintains a List of the Harmed, citing more than 1,200 separate cases of Pennsylvania residents whose health or safety was harmed by fracking operations. Considering that the oil and gas industry has been cited for more than 4,300 environmental violations in recent years, it’s a wonder that the list isn’t larger.

One reason so many cases of human health impacts go unreported in Pennsylvania is the controversial Act 13, a state law passed last year that has done almost as much harm to the people of Pennsylvania as the gas drillers themselves. For many residents now engaged in the struggle to halt fracking, Act 13 was the final straw that pushed them into action.

Billed as a regulatory mechanism that would empower local communities subjected to fracking, Act 13 was actually a sinister Get Out of Jail Free Card for the industry. It prevents medical doctors from sharing with patients who are exposed to toxic fracking chemicals the facts and details about those chemicals and their health risks. Essentially, Pennsylvania doctors are prohibited from discussing with fracking victims the details of how and why they are ill. Shocking.

If there’s any good that’s come from the countless hardships Pennsylvania families have faced due to fracking, it’s the education and inspiration these circumstances have provided to activists in states like New York that are working feverishly to prevent such tragedies in their own communities. But this comes as little solace to the sick and tired in Pennsylvania for whom only a fracking moratorium in their own state will console. For them, 100,000 petitions delivered to the statehouse are only the beginning of their effort.

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April 19th, 2013

Celebrating the Goldman Prize Winners

By Walker Foley

Goldman Prize winner Jonathan Deal, of Treasure Karoo Action Group in South Africa, undertakes a flag exchange with Darcey O’Callaghan of Food & Water Watch on behalf of Americans Against Fracking. Photo courtesy of the Goldman Prize.

 “It’s the Academy Awards of environmentalism,” explained everyone ad nauseam of the Goldman Environmental Prize. I still wasn’t sure what to expect as I took my seat.

The auditorium was at capacity, buzzing with the excitement of activists, researchers and students representing the gamut of environmental issues. A montage of collapsing icebergs played on the big screen center stage, a reminder of the challenges ahead. 

Read the full article…

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March 20th, 2013

Will Your Tax Dollars Subsidize Fracking’s Wasteful Water Use?

By Mary Grant fracking for natural gas

This morning, the Senate is discussing a new bill that, among other things, will give federally subsidized loans to companies that sell water to the oil and gas industry.  

Tagged onto a big water infrastructure bill is the “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2013,” often referred to by its acronym WIFIA. This speciously named, industry-backed program will give low-interest loans primarily to large water companies to finance certain projects, including desalination and other water supply activities.

Hidden in the fine print is evidence that the program seeks to use public dollars to finance water projects that benefit the oil and gas industry. In fact, it will give funding preference to those projects. The program has just nine criteria for determining which eligible projects will get financial support, and one of these nine factors is: “the extent to which a project serves regions with significant energy exploration, development, or production areas.”

This means projects that produce more water for fracking will get priority over other water projects outside of oil and gas drilling areas.

Fracking uses millions of gallons of water per well, and the major water companies are salivating at the opportunity to sell water to water-guzzling oil and gas companies. Aqua America, the second largest U.S. investor owned water company, has a whole section of its website describing its efforts to sell water to shale drillers. The company is an associate member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and the company’s CEO seems to act as a gas industry shill.

American Water — the largest U.S. investor owned water company — also sells water to the oil and gas industry. This month in a presentation to investors, the company reported that it made about $3 million in revenue last year from fracking deals and sold more than 430 million gallons to frackers.

Our issue brief “Why the Water Industry Is Promoting Shale Gas Development” delves deeper into the cozy relationship between large water corporations and the oil and gas industry. These two powerful industries held their first ever Global Water: Oil & Gas Summit in Dubai last year to come up with plans for how to mutually benefit from water intensive shale development.

One thing is clear: The federal government should not use our tax dollars to subsidize corporate water sales to the oil and gas industry.  

Act now to tell your Senators to oppose WIFIA and its low-interest loans to large water corporations that sell water for fracking.   

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Don’t Waste Any Time Mourning Maryland’s Fracking Bills. Organize.

By Jorge Aguilar

Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Organizing Director

Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director

For the second year in a row, the two environmental committees of the Maryland legislature have put politics ahead of leadership on the issue of fracking.   

Last Thursday, the last of three bills that would have required the state General Assembly to take a strong position on fracking died an unceremonious death. Both Delegate Maggie McIntosh and Senator Joan Carter Conway, the chairs of the key committees charged with taking up fracking, made it abundantly clear to anyone that would listen (including their own committee members) that they did not believe any fracking bill should move if it wasn’t coming from the Governor. 

Senator Conway, for instance, repeated multiple times during the legislative session that she believed her committee should wait for the final study from the Governor’s fracking commission before acting on any fracking legislation. Similarly, the Environmental Matters Committee didn’t have a chance to vote on a fracking wastewater bill, which would have made it illegal for Maryland to treat fracking waste coming from outside state boundaries, because Delegate McIntosh killed it before it had a vote. This bill, widely supported by the environmental community in Maryland, was being cosponsored by 10 out of the 23 members of the committee.

At a time when natural gas prices are starting to trend up, Maryland’s own fracking export facility is moving towards completion, and significant recommendations to prohibit the treatment of fracking wastewater were made in a recent study by the University of Maryland (see Chapter 4 Section J – P), Maryland residents should expect a lot more out of Del. McIntosh and Sen. Conway. 

Thankfully, the Baltimore City Council just passed an ordinance that would protect their constituents from the hazards of fracking wastewater, but the rest of the state deserves the protection, too.

The lack of legislative action on fracking in Maryland shows that our elected officials need to be held accountable for leaving us at risk. Each year of delay just brings us one year closer to fracking in Maryland. The only way the oil and gas industry will be stopped is by citizens working to force their elected officials to act. That’s why we are going to redouble our efforts to organize against fracking in Maryland, educating citizens about its hazards and making sure legislators know they can’t let fracking move forward in Maryland.

You can email Senator Conway here, Delegate McIntosh here, and Governor Martin O’Malley here to let them know we don’t want to frack Maryland.

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