Fracking | Food & Water Watch - Part 11
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Blog Posts: Fracking

July 17th, 2012

ExxonMobil CEO Rants Against People Who Care About the Planet

By Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

For anyone concerned about climate change, Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s CEO, has the fast and easy solution: he wants you to just stop worrying about it. All those statistics, warming trends, rising ocean levels and severe weather events are nothing more than a little “fear factor” according to a speech given by Tillerson last month.

Isn’t Fear Factor a game show in which people engage in risky and irresponsible behavior in the pursuit of money? So maybe what he said is true. Global warming is caused by people like Tillerson who engage in risky and irresponsible behavior in the pursuit of money.

Tillerson accuses environmental and consumer advocacy groups of fear-mongering when it comes to drilling and fracking for oil and gas, and he believes the general public doesn’t have enough aptitude for math and science to comprehend the drilling process or to determine whether or not it’s safe. But the “inconvenient truth” for Tillerson is that the science is not on his side. Two peer-reviewed scientific studies this year -– one in the journal Ground Water and another in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -– have highlighted that the scientific question is no longer if drilling and fracking will end up contaminating vital aquifers, but when. Furthermore, there is a growing scientific consensus that natural gas is as bad as and may even be worse than coal when it comes to climate change.

But what was truly offensive about the CEO’s recent comments is that he held out fossil fuels like oil and gas as the “God pod’s” (as the executive suite at ExxonMobil’s headquarters is known) Godsend to the world’s poor:

[The poor] need fuel to cook their food on that’s not animal dung. There are more people’s [sic] health being dramatically affected because they don’t even have access to fossil fuels to burn. They’d love to burn fossil fuels.

Contrary to Tillerson’s self-serving missive, people are not dying to use fossil fuels, they’re dying from using fossil fuels. If the resources were available there are many sustainable technologies that could be employed to improve the quality of life for people in the developing world, including cooking. The last thing impoverished people anywhere need is exposure to more toxins.

In fact, the World Health Organization attributes about 2 million deaths per year to air pollution tied mainly to the continuing use of fossil fuels. A recent report put out by the Better Future Project covers a whole host of other detrimental impacts on human health, the environment, global security and the world economy from out-of-control fossil fuel dependence.

The people of the United States are not immune to the heavy burdens caused by fossil fuel use, so it seems likely that those burdens would travel wherever consumers use energy. A National Academy of Sciences study finds that our own addiction to fossil fuels costs the U.S. about $120 billion each year in health costs and results in 24,000 deaths annually in this country alone, and that’s with some of the toughest air pollution controls in the world in place. The human and environmental health toll in developing nations with few or no environmental regulations would rise almost as fast as Tillerson’s profits.

Tillerson believes that the best way to adjust to climate change is not by decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels, but through wondrous feats of engineering. And just when you think the arrogance couldn’t get worse, the CEO of the largest revenue-generating company in the world wants your government and your tax money to create and fund the technological workarounds needed to address the multitude of harms caused by his ongoing peddling of his very profitable product.

Among Rex Tillerson’s other endearing opinions…

  1. The public is ignorant: The industry’s biggest challenge “taking an illiterate public and try to help them understand why we can manage these risks.”
  2. Water scarcity is not a problem (if you can move it around as you wish). “There is plenty of water; it’s just not in all the right places.” 
  3. The media is lazy. “Journalists act irresponsibly when they report on negative impacts of shale gas drilling because it scares the public.” 

If Rex Tillerson really cared about the world’s poor he’d stand up and say what is no longer deniable: the longer we rely on oil, coal and gas, instead of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, the worse our lives will be.

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July 13th, 2012

From Pete Seeger, Praise for One Gov. Cuomo and a Fracking Warning for Another

By Seth Gladstone

In the annals of American populist activism, there are few individuals who have been more engaged or been more pervasive than Pete Seeger. His vehement opposition to fracking is a logical stance from the man who has come to define the fight for responsible and responsive government in America.

Seeger, the folk singer, television host and prolific political activist, has penned and performed many of the protest songs that are synonymous with the key social movements of the 20th century. From his musical calls to action with Woody Guthrie and Peter, Paul & Mary during the Vietnam War to his politically-minded comedy routines on network television over the decades, Seeger was out front and in full voice on any number of popular (and sometimes not so popular) causes over the years.

  Read the full article…

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July 11th, 2012

Pipeline Threats Add Insult to Injury in Glacier National Park

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. Read the full article…

The Road to the White House Is Not Lined With Fracking Rigs

By Wenonah Hauter
How did you spend your weekend? Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo spent his talking up the presidential potential of his son, current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, telling people that the younger Cuomo may “have an opportunity to serve at a higher level, to serve the people of the United States.”
While it’s always nice to see a parent take pride in the accomplishments of their children, in this case, the elder Cuomo’s plug seems a little premature. Right now, nearly 20,000,000 New Yorkers are waiting to learn the fate of their essential resources as Governor Andrew Cuomo considers proposals to open New York State to shale gas development.
But the road to the White House is not lined with fracking rigs, and Cuomo’s cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry does not bode well for his energy policies if ever elected president. Before Governor Cuomo throws his hat into the ring, he needs to address the needs of his current constituents by banning fracking in New York.
All Americans deserve a future lit by clean, truly renewable energy, not dirty fossil fuels. Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we depend. We don’t need it in New York, or anywhere else.
Opening New York up to fracking will set a dangerous precedent—in the state and the 2016 presidential campaign. Tell Governor Cuomo to preserve essential resources in New York and beyond by rejecting fracking.

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June 27th, 2012

Where’s Timothy Considine?

By Kate FriedConcerned Citizens against fracking

Like leg warmers and Grunge, Where’s Waldo was an inescapable phenomenon for many who came of age during the 80s and 90s. I probably don’t need to remind you that these books featured colorful, detailed illustrations designed to trick the reader’s eye from finding the eponymous Waldo, hiding in plain site in his signature striped red shirt and round eye glasses. Where’s Waldo? He’s everywhere.

Another person who seems to be everywhere these days, hiding in plain sight, is Professor Timothy Considine, director of the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics & Public Policy and president of Natural Resource Economics, Inc. Considine is notable within the debate over fracking because he is the author of a number of studies that exaggerate and promote the so-called economic benefits of the process. In other words, he’s the oil and gas industry’s go-to guy when they need a little research to distract the public from the ways in which fracking negatively affects public health, rural economies and the environment.

Open up an “academic” study that finds value in fracking and chances are, Considine was either somehow involved, or influential. In fact, the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) just published an interesting study highlighting exactly how central Considine is to the oil and gas industry’s propaganda machine.

As disturbing as it is, the symbiosis between the academy and corporations isn’t really news. But what is noteworthy is how, if you look closely, you’ll find Considine behind the scenes in so many of the industry’s spin jobs. Since 2009 he’s written or been linked to several pro-fracking studies published by Penn State, the American Petroleum Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Wyoming Mining Association and the University at Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute to name a few.

A number of studies have debunked Considine’s key points, revealing his body of work to be a house of cards. Somehow his fuzzy math always makes fracking look better than it actually is for the economy. Waldo’s glasses are clear, but Considine’s are obviously rose-tinted.

The role of universities should not be to validate corporate rhetoric, and slapping an academic seal of approval over faulty research doesn’t make it accurate. Ultimately, partnerships such as the ones between Considine and the oil and gas industry undermine the value of all information generated by scholars.


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June 26th, 2012

Amidst Fire and Drought in Colorado, a City’s Worth of Water is Going Where?

By Katherine BoehrerBan Fracking!

In Colorado, drought conditions and the worst wildfire season in a decade have brought renewed focus on water budgeting in the state. A new report by Western Resource Advocates (WRA) highlights community concerns about the impact of fracking on Colorado’s water supply. The study found that water used in one year for new oil and gas development throughout the state could supply the entire population of Lakewood, the fourth-largest city in Colorado.

Though oil and gas companies often point out that water used for fracking is a small percentage of that used for agriculture and municipal purposes statewide, in certain counties it can be much more. According to the report, in Weld County, water used for new oil and gas drilling operations equaled between one-third and two-thirds of domestic and public water use in 2011.

Weld County and other area farmers now face extreme water shortages from ongoing drought conditions, requiring them to remove hundreds of acres from production. Nearby cities can’t help because many have already auctioned off all of the water they had allotted for sale to agricultural users and oil and gas companies. Read the full article…

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June 25th, 2012

Frackers, Ambitious Governors Beware: Josh Fox is Back, and the Sky Isn’t Pink

By Seth Gladstone

For the polluting natural gas drillers and corporate lobbyist hucksters that have come under his exposing lens, the investigative filmmaker Josh Fox has become a primary target. Since his 2010 documentary film Gasland opened the eyes of an uninformed nation (and Academy Awards nominators) to the horrific realities of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the fossil fuel industry has recognized the threat Fox poses to its bottom line. That’s why it set about disparaging Fox and denying the conditions exposed in Gasland immediately upon the film’s release. But thankfully, Fox wasn’t deterred by the personal attacks and outrageous claims made against his work. He’s back, and in his latest anti-fracking expose, he’s honed his message for an audience of one: Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Sky is Pink, Fox’s 18-minute short film released last week, is a concise and timely update on the battle against fracking that has been waged by countless families for years, and on the latest efforts of the gas industry to misinform the public and community leaders on the issue. But its focus is squarely on the latest front in the fight: New York State. As the Cuomo administration publically ponders a fracking future for the state, Fox uses his punchy, fact-driven piece to update the public – and one key governor – on how the debate has evolved and what real science and data on the issue actually tell us.

Read the full article…

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June 15th, 2012

Ohio and Alabama Stand Up Against Fracking

fracking for natural gasBy Katherine Boehrer

This week we are celebrating two big successes in Ohio and Alabama, where citizens worked together to protect their public lands and water from the dangers of fracking operations. The victories came after local groups and environmental organizations banded together to demand more public involvement in local decision making regarding shale gas drilling.

Thanks to a dedicated group of activists in Ohio, the Muskigum Watershed Conservancy Board announced that they would not be considering water sales for use in fracking operations until a study is completed by the USGS and the Board reviews its water sale policy. 

After a recent sale of 11 million gallons to Gulfport Energy, the grassroots group Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save our Water enlisted the help of activists from Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club, the Buckeye Forest Council, the Ohio Environmental Council, and other grassroots groups to go before the board’s governing panel of judges, demanding more citizen participation in the water sale process and expressing their concern about the use of public water for fracking. After hearing what they had to say, the judges and the board expressed interest in having more public involvement in decision making in the future. Later that week, they made the announcement that they would halt water sales for use in fracking until more information is gathered.  Read the full article…

June 11th, 2012

Fracking and Farming Don’t Mix

Issue Brief: Fracking and the Food System

Read our issue brief: Fracking and the Food System

By Katherine Boehrer

We already know that fracking threatens human health, the environment, and our communities. But it could also have a negative impact our food system and the farmers who work to feed our nation.

Spills of toxic fracking chemicals can contaminate groundwater and cropland. These leaks could be harmful to livestock as well – last September StateImpact’s Susan Philips reported on a case in Pennsylvania in which 28 beef cattle encountered fracking fluid that seeped out of a holding pond. Those cows gave birth to 11 calves the following spring, but shockingly, only three calves survived. Across the country livestock exposed to toxic fracking chemicals have been killed or sickened.

On top of direct losses, areas that frack could see a lack of consumer confidence in the safety of their food, as news of contamination spreads. They could also see an increase in competition for water from oil and gas companies, as fracking requires millions of gallons of water per well.   Read the full article…

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June 6th, 2012

I (Frack) NY? New Yorkers Aren’t Laughing

By Seth Gladstone

Just when you thought the Big Oil and Gas lobby’s slick and aggressive marketing efforts couldn’t get any more absurd, they come out and top even themselves. In a sly reference to New York State’s iconic “I Love NY” tourism promotion campaign, the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York gives us this: a sad attempt at humor (we think) that fails miserably.

Indeed, New York State has long been a mecca for local, domestic and international tourists seeking the plentiful array of wonderful outdoor activities – from skiing in the Catskill Mountains, to apple picking in the Hudson Valley, to waterskiing on the Delaware River – that make the state a truly unique year-round destination. Certainly the thousands of small business owners throughout the state that rely on the tourism industry to make a living value the well-earned reputation New York has garnered as a traveler’s delight.

To think that the oil and gas lobby might attract tourists to New York State with the image of an obtrusive, polluting gas rig dominating the horizon couldn’t be more ridiculous. Their cluelessness – or perhaps their arrogance – must not go unnoticed by the residents and elected officials of New York.

That’s why we’re asking you to join us in letting Governor Cuomo know that we are looking to him to protect New York’s valuable tourist industry from fracking. Urge Governor Cuomo to ban fracking in New York.

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