fracking | Food & Water Watch - Part 12
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Blog Posts: Fracking

March 6th, 2013

For the Sake of Women’s (and Men’s) Health, Gloria Steinem Enters the Fracking Fray in New York

By Seth Gladstone

Ban Fracking!Perhaps more than anyone in recent history, Gloria Steinem has become synonymous with the protection of women’s health and safety. From her early years at New York Magazine and Ms. Magazine – defending the right to choose and promoting the Equal Rights Amendment – to her subsequent work with race and labor activists like Coretta Scott King and Cesar Chavez, Steinem has set the benchmark for safety, fairness and equality among not just women, but all residents of the nation.

In more recent years, Steinem has turned her attention to public health threats that are derived from the weakening of environmental protections like the Clean Water Act. So it should come as no surprise that she recently signed a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to halt any consideration of fracking in his state before a collection of long-term statewide and national public health studies on the controversial natural gas drilling method are completed. The letter was also signed by hundreds of doctors, health organizations and environmental and consumer groups from across the nation.

Read the full article…

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February 25th, 2013

Welcome to Frackademia

By: Alison K. Grassfracking for natural gas

Recently, the public got wind of the University of Tennessee’s intentions to open up over 8,000 acres of publicly owned land in the university’s Cumberland Research Forest for a fracking research project. On January 31, 2013, the University requested a 30-day extension to the state panel responsible for approving the research proposal after concerned local residents demanded more information, time and transparency.

Read the full article…

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January 29th, 2013

From Fracking to Cracking—Is This the Next Toxic Practice Some Pennsylvanians May Soon Face?

By: Alison K. Grassfracking for natural gas

Fracking causes many public health and environmental problems and the last thing that Pennsylvanians need is another way for the oil and gas industry to capitalize on the Marcellus Shale at the expense of their health and well-being. But Governor Corbett lured the multinational oil and gas giant, Shell Oil Company into the state to do just that. 

Corbett, who has received $1.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, forced through legislation in February 2012 that would exempt the company from property and corporate income taxes for 15 years if they build a petrochemical ethane cracker plant in the western part of the state.  A cracker plant creates chemicals like ethylene, in this case from Marcellus Shale gas, to manufacture plastics and fertilizer.  Read the full article…

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January 25th, 2013

New York’s Chefs (From Mario Batali to Our Moms) Agree: Fracking Would Cook Up Nothing but Trouble

By Seth Gladstone

Ban Fracking!In our work to ban fracking across the United States, we talk quite a bit about the unacceptable dangers the extreme gas drilling process poses to our water. From toxic fracking chemicals leaching into underground drinking water sources to regular leaks and spills polluting surface lakes and streams, “Don’t frack our water” has become a primary rallying cry in the anti-fracking movement.

But an equally urgent plea has been gaining steam in places where fracking threatens to invade: “Don’t frack our food!” And in New York, where Governor Cuomo may decide in the next few weeks whether or not to open the state to fracking, the call to protect our food is coming most recently from a group of professionals who know as much about the subject as anyone: top chefs.

This week, more than 150 prominent New York chefs – including the culinary superstar Mario Batali – sent a letter to Cuomo urging him to ban fracking in their state. In the letter they state that “fracking leaks and spills have stunted and killed crops and livestock and sickened humans…. This is of great concern to our community because agriculture, food and beverage production, restaurants, and tourism are vital, growing, interdependent economic engines that rely on our famously pristine water and farmland for their success.”

Indeed, these top chefs have much to fear and much to lose from fracking in New York. But their letter also speaks to the long chain of food, agriculture and farming professionals throughout upstate New York who have everything to lose as well.

“Those of us who treasure and increasingly rely on locally sourced food and beverages are deeply concerned that fracking will destroy our state’s environment,” says Heather Carlucci, a chef and co-founder of Chefs for the Marcellus, a partner group that helped coordinate the letter delivery. “It could destroy upstate farms, which are celebrated around the world and contributes a huge amount to the state economy.”

Heather’s reading couldn’t be truer. In a new issue analysis from Food & Water Watch, the potential impacts of fracking on New York’s food, agriculture and farms are spelled out, and the facts aren’t pretty. As the report notes, New York is the third-largest dairy state in the nation and the second-largest producer of apples, maple syrup, cabbage and wine production, among many other crops. These products end up not just on the tables of fine restaurants in Manhattan, but in family kitchens across the northeast.

January 24th, 2013

President Obama: Don’t Allow Natural Gas Exports

By Hugh MacMillan

Today, Food & Water Watch joined with the Sierra Club, numerous other organizations, and more than 200,000 Americans in opposition to the oil and gas industry’s plans to export liquefied natural gas, which would make more profitable and thus intensify destructive drilling and fracking all across the country. Tomorrow, thousands of Americans will call the White House with this same message for President Obama to reject policies that promote fracking or the export of natural gas.

We submitted our own brief comments and signed on to additional comments identifying flaws in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) approach to looking at the cumulative economic impacts of expanded LNG exports.

As I blogged in November of last year, the headlines from the economic impacts report gave the oil and gas industry, and its financial backers on Wall Street, a huge gift. Selective reading of the study led many to conclude that LNG exports would be unequivocally good for the U.S. economy. A representative of Dominion Resources, for example, a company which seeks authority to export LNG from a facility in Cove Point, Maryland, was interviewed on E&E’s OnPoint on December 12, 2012 and said: “I told a friend of mine at DOE that there were babies conceived and birthed in the time that it took to get the report out, it’s a beautiful baby. That’s the thing. The delivery was successful and we’re happy with it….the net economics impacts are positive across the economic spectrum in the United States.”

But this could not be further from the truth. The report specifically states that those Americans who rely on income from wages “might not participate in these benefits.” That says it all—how many people do you know that don’t make a living working for wages, but who instead live off of their oil and gas industry investments? Not many? I didn’t think so.

The U.S. DOE will be making an enormous mistake if it allows the oil and gas industry, and its Wall Street backers, to make enormous profits from exporting gas at the public’s expense. LNG exports will intensify drilling and fracking, leaving communities across the country to bear the costs, but these costs are completely neglected in the agency’s assessment of the cumulative economic impacts.

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December 10th, 2012

Fracking Companies Seek Exemption from Democracy

By Scott Edwards

Scott Edwards, co-director of the Food & Water Justice project

While the nation was largely focused on the presidential election in the swing state of Colorado, there was another very important vote taking place in the state in Longmont, a city of about 86,000 people located just northeast of Boulder. On the same day Obama carried Colorado, the citizens of Longmont voted overwhelmingly to ban the harmful practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a method of extracting local gas deposits in their community. Longmont’s ban of fracking was nothing short of heroic given the undue influence, massive amounts of money and open threats of financial ruin thrown about by the oil and gas industry and the state’s governor leading up to the vote on November 6th

Each day brings new, irrefutable evidence that fracking is poisoning our communities. Data released just last week shows that 17 percent of the over 2000 fracking chemical spills and releases reported in Colorado resulted in groundwater contamination with cancer-causing chemicals like benzene. None of that, of course, gives the industry or its supporters any pause. In fact, groups like Environmental Defense Fund and the fracking companies have once again shamelessly joined hands and are sharing talking points in Colorado in response to this new evidence. They’re jointly calling for a testing protocol to raise “public confidence” in fracking when the only thing the public can be increasingly confident about is that fracking is threatening their communities and clean water. 

The passing of the ban was the latest step in Longmont’s battle to keep the oil and gas industry from polluting their drinking water and poisoning their community. The next fight will be in the courts, where industry will dispatch its high-priced lawyers to ask a judge to quash the rights of tens of thousands of Longmont residents and allow the big gas companies to do what they want, where they want, without regard for the citizens of the state or the democratic process which enacted the ban in the first place.

On one level, this will be a legal battle about fracking and the devastation it brings to our public health and precious resources. The fracking companies like to pretend that fracking is harmless, but the truth is the fracking “debate” ended in 2005 when the industry deployed their lobbyists and got Dick Cheney and Congress to exempt their inherently harmful gas extraction process from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Their need for an exemption from the one federal law that protects our aquifers was an open concession that they couldn’t engage in fracking without poisoning our drinking water supplies. That fact was just proven with the latest Colorado contamination data. The SDWA free pass added to their exemptions to parts of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource and Conservation Recovery Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and virtually any other public health law with the words “safe,” “clean,” “conservation” or “environmental” in it.

But even all these regulatory exemptions aren’t enough for the industry; they’ll be walking into court any day now in Colorado seeking an exemption from democracy, the last great hurdle in their effort to poison and pollute with absolute impunity.  And that’s the other important aspect of this upcoming case – its about the fundamental rights of people in communities in Colorado, and elsewhere, to decide what they want their towns and cities to look like, what kinds of activities they want taking place next to their schools and playgrounds, how safe they want the water they drink and the air they breath to be.

Whether you’re for fracking or against it, whether or not you’re paying attention to study after study which shows that fracking is having detrimental impacts on ground and surface waters, airways, climate, property values and public health, and regardless of whether you think extreme fossil fuel development is worth the price we’ll all have to pay if fracking is allowed to proliferate even more, the one thing we can all agree on is that we live in a country where voting and the democratic process should count for something. All, that is, except for industry and the bought-and-paid-for politicians who are so willing to sacrifice the rights of their citizens for the profits of fracking companies. 

Just as EDF has lost its way in the fight to preserve our environment, Colorado’s governor, John Hickerlooper, has forgotten who elected him when he recently stated that that he would support industry if they sued his own citizens in Longmont over the fracking ban.  Perhaps Hickernlooper should take a lesson from the authors of Colorado’s State Constitution; they understood the rights of local citizens in ways that the governor doesn’t seem to grasp. This document, written in 1876, grants the people of Longmont and everyone else in the state “essential and inalienable rights,” including the right to enjoy and defend their lives and liberties and protect their property, to seek and obtain safety.  They also understood that these inalienable rights can never be eclipsed by the financial interests of industry. Article XV of the Constitution says that the state can never use its powers to “permit corporations to conduct their business in such a manner as to infringe the equal rights of individuals, or the general well-being of the State.”

Once the will of corporations take over the rights of citizens, we lose the power to determine our own future. When industries get to decide how safe our water and air is, we no longer control our own health and safety. And if the fracking companies who seek to profit in Longmont area allowed to undo the November 6th fracking ban, we can no longer pretend to live in a democracy.

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December 7th, 2012

Trickle-Down Benefits from Exporting Fracked Gas? Don’t Bet on It

By Hugh MacMillan

A new report, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy and conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, touts the supposed net benefits to the U.S. economy of allowing exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The study is incredibly out of touch.

The headline that LNG exports are unequivocally good – the more exports the better! – gives a huge gift to the oil and gas industry, and to its backers on Wall Street, but the devil is the details. Look closer, and you see that the narrow economic analysis does the public a disservice. As our Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, has put it, “NERA’s report not only sweeps under the rug the public costs of more drilling and fracking, it insults us with the argument that the benefits enjoyed by the oil and gas industry and its financiers will trickle down.”

First, LNG exports will mean higher natural gas prices for American consumers, but the NERA report claims that on average, Americans will benefit because the gains will be so large for the oil and gas industry. This is the old “Bill Gates walks into a bar” illustration of lying with statistics.

In essence, the NERA analysis is that, while 10 million Americans would likely pay $100 each, a couple of oil and gas industry executives and banking executives could pocket a couple billion dollars, so if you take an average over everybody, it works out to everyone getting an extra $100. How the net economic benefit is distributed is completely lost. To its credit, the report does acknowledge that those Americans who rely on income from wages “might not participate in these benefits.” That says it all—how many people do you know that don’t make a living from wages, but who instead live off of their oil and gas industry investments? Not many? I didn’t think so.

Second, the NERA report has an appendix called “Factors That We Did Not Include in the Analysis,” but it needs another appendix. Perhaps it could be called: “Factors That We Did Not Include in the Factors-That-We-Did-Not-Include-in-the-Analysis Appendix.” 

LNG exports also mean more widespread and destructive drilling and fracking, but the costs to local communities exposed to this drilling and fracking – the long terms costs of a legacy of pollution – are ignored in the NERA report. These communities will be worse off when the fracking boom goes bust. They will face long term risks to their public water resources. And all of us will bear the escalating costs of global climate change that will come from giving the oil and gas industry its wish, and allowing it to drill and frack for as much fossil fuel as possible, as fast as it can.

Finally, it’s no surprise that more drilling and fracking would be projected to increase GDP, especially given that all the destructive and costly negative impacts are externalized, foisted on to the public and not included in NERA’s calculations. But increased GDP is not a measure of economic welfare.

The Natural Gas Act mandates the U.S. DOE swiftly authorize applications to export natural gas to countries with which the United States does have a Free Trade Agreement. The unbalanced findings of the NERA Economic Consulting report are being used by the U.S. DOE to evaluate whether LNG exports to countries with which the United States does not have a Free Trade Agreement are actually in the public interest. The potential impact on U.S. energy security is also being considered by the U.S. DOE as it decides whether or not to authorize LNG exports.

Our recent report, U.S. Energy Insecurity: Why Fracking for Oil and Natural Gas is a False Solution, exposes the misconceptions, falsehoods and misleading statements behind the oil and gas industry’s claims that modern drilling and fracking can deliver U.S. energy security. We show that the 100 years of natural gas is a dangerous mirage. There are a lot of threads to the industry’s claims that are unwound in our report, but above all else, the industry’s plans to export shale gas, America’s supposed ticket to energy security, are the most revealing. The only thing the industry seeks to secure is its bottom line. NERA’s report, commissioned by the U.S. DOE, moves them one step closer.

The U.S. DOE will be making an enormous mistake if it adopts the unbalanced and shortsighted conclusions of this study. The agency must not allow the oil and gas industry, and its Wall Street backers, to write federal energy policy to benefit its bottom line at the public’s expense.

The oil and gas industry will simply extract as much natural gas as possible, as fast as possible, for maximum profit, while fighting tooth and nail to prolong America’s destructive dependence on fossil fuels. Then, once U.S. natural gas is gone, the global oil and gas industry will simply convert the export facilities back to import facilities and bring in foreign sources of fracked natural gas to feed the entrenched U.S. dependence.

It is not too late for the United States to avoid going down this self-destructive path. Long-term U.S. energy security and independence can only be achieved by getting off of fossil fuels, but the country needs to act now to deploy existing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions, invest in public transportation systems to reduce energy demand, and invest in future technologies that build on these proven solutions.

The U.S. DOE will be considering public comments on the NERA report until mid-January, and Food & Water Watch will be working with allies to urge the agency to reject the unbalanced and shortsighted economic study. Food & Water Watch will also be calling on you in the coming weeks to make your voices heard.

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November 27th, 2012

After Another Hard-Won Delay, No Fracking in New York This Year

By Seth Gladstone

Ban Fracking!It’s official: after years of edging steadily towards the decision to open up New York State to the danger and environmental degradation of fracking, Governor Cuomo has finally opened his eyes and ears to the groundswell of opposition to the controversial gas drilling method and put the breaks on the approval process. We’re pleased and encouraged by the fact that there will be no progress toward fracking in New York in 2012.

As we noted in October, intense pressure from the grassroots anti-fracking movement forced Gov. Cuomo to conduct a new health review of his proposed fracking regulations. Cuomo appointed three health professionals to conduct the review, but offered little detail in the way of exactly what their mandate would amount to. More questions were created than answered with the governor’s new twist to the review process. Meanwhile, a procedural deadline of November 29, 2012 still seemed to loom for his administration to approve final fracking regulations or be forced into some re-initiation of the review and regulation process.

Finally, last week, Gov. Cuomo confirmed that his administration would not meet that Nov. 29 deadline, assuring that nothing will be decided on the issue this year. While it seemed just a few months ago that Governor Cuomo was ready to carve a vast fracking sacrifice zone throughout the state’s Southern Tier, the immense pressure placed upon him by a broad coalition of thousands of concerned residents, activists and organizations has forced a rightful second-guessing of fracking by the governor. All of which buys our growing movement more time to energize, strategize, mobilize and activate anew against the still-looming threat that continues to cloud New York’s future.

Additionally, the fight for truth and transparency around fracking in New York enjoyed another victory this month, as a university research institute that had been closely tied to the oil and gas industry was shut down by the school’s president recently. In an era when it has become commonplace for corporate interests to coopt supposedly legitimate academic research institutions with funding, influence and biased engagement, to see such an entity rightly shut down is a win not just for concerned New Yorkers but for science and academics at large.

When the New York State University at Buffalo’s Shale Gas Resources and Society Institute opened last year, it was widely suspected that the institute was receiving financial support from the oil and gas industry. Last May, it released a study that was loaded with misinformation and drew the obviously false conclusion that fracking was a safe procedure that would have no negative effects on surrounding communities. After much criticism and controversy, the fact that the institute has been permanently shuttered should be affirmed and celebrated.

As the eyes of the nation remain on New York State and the prolonged fight to protect countless communities from the ravages of fracking, we can look forward to building our movement and our momentum in 2013. Help keep the pressure on Governor Cuomo by signing our petition and letting him know you won’t tolerate fracking in New York State this year, next year or ever.

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November 20th, 2012

LNG Exports Reveal Industry’s True Motive: Profits

By Hugh MacMillan

Ban Fracking!

Click here to take action to stop the export of fracked gas.

A new report by Food & Water Watch reveals the many flaws in the oil and gas industry’s claims about fracking and U.S. energy security. But nothing is more revealing about the industry’s deceptive energy security rhetoric than its push to export liquefied natural gas overseas. Alongside the industry’s patriotic rhetoric, this push to export LNG is the height of hypocrisy.

As drilling and fracking for shale gas boomed, natural gas was overproduced. By April 2012 the “wellhead price” for natural gas had fallen from over $10 per thousand cubic feet in July 2008 to under $2. In 2010, ExxonMobil bought into the shale gas boom, becoming the largest producer of natural gas in the country with its purchase of XTO Energy, but by June 2012 CEO Rex Tillerson stated that because of low natural gas prices, “We are all losing our shirts today…. We’re making no money [on natural gas]. It’s all in the red.” Natural gas prices were far below those needed for the industry to break even, given the cost of drilling and fracking new shale gas wells.

In exporting natural gas, the industry sees a way out of this bind. As opposed to oil, the supply chain for natural gas is not yet globalized, and natural gas prices in Asia and Europe have remained high. This gives the oil and gas industry an opportunity not just to profit from exporting natural gas, but to avoid falling off of its drilling and fracking “treadmill” – that is, because shale gas production declines so steeply, and because the highest producing wells are the first to get drilled and fracked, the industry must keep increasing the rate of drilling and fracking just to maintain a constant level of shale gas production.

So, to stay on this treadmill, and to keep the shale gas bubble from bursting, the oil and gas industry is beating down the door of the Department of Energy, urging the agency to authorize a flood of liquefied natural gas exports. The 19 LNG export proposals, and counting, could amount to sending the equivalent of over 42 percent of current annual natural gas consumption out of the country each year. That is a lot of natural gas, and a lot of it would be shale gas from fracking.

Representative Ed Markey has introduced two bills in the U.S. House that could foil the industry’s plan. The first bill, H.R. 4024, would keep the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from approving any new LNG export facilities until at least 2025. The second bill, H.R. 4025, would ensure that natural gas extracted from U.S. public lands is not exported, and further that no new pipelines on public lands would transport natural gas for export.

These two incisive bills are important to the larger fight to rein in an industry that, if allowed to write its own policies, will simply extract as much fossil fuel as possible, as fast as possible, for maximum profit, regardless of the long-term costs to local communities or the health of the planet. Without exporting natural gas to create more demand and get prices high enough to justify drilling and fracking, the oil and gas industry may decide it makes more financial sense to leave the natural gas deep underground. That is precisely where experts warn us fossil fuels need to stay if we are to avoid catastrophic global warming.

Take action today to stop the export of fracked gas.

 

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November 7th, 2012

Organizing CAN Trump Special Interest Money in Elections

By Wenonah Hauter

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Listen to Wenonah’s post-election town hall meeting

Last night, voters rejected a vision for our country that would have taken our economy, environmental regulations and consumer protections back decades. If there is one overarching lesson this election taught us, it’s that political organizing CAN overcome industry money in elections. But we can’t sit back and assume protections for our essential resources will improve; instead, we need to take lessons from the last four years and redouble our organizing efforts to press the Obama administration, Congress, and state legislatures across the country to keep our food and water safe and keep our essential resources in public hands. 



Two ballot measures Food & Water Watch worked on this cycle illustrate the need and power of organizing, even in the face of entrenched and powerful interests. 



One of the most exciting victories from election night was in Longmont, Colorado where voters passed an historic and precedent setting ballot initiative to ban fracking. We were up against incredible odds in Longmont, with the oil and gas industry spending over half-a-million dollars for TV commercials, full-page ads and multiple mailers to try to scare Longmont citizens. Governor Hickenlooper sued the citizens of Longmont to slow down our efforts and the Denver Post editorialized against this vote to ban fracking, but we were on the ground, knocking on doors, talking to voters and doing the hard work to support a citizen-led effort to protect our health, safety and property, and the citizens of Longmont spoke loud and clear. We won with nearly 60% of the vote!  

We also worked hard in California with many of our allies to pass Proposition 37, which would require labeling for all genetically engineered foods. This popular measure was only narrowly defeated at the polls, due in large part to the massive spending by large chemical and junk food companies (which outspent our side by over $40 million.) Despite this loss, support for GE food labels has never been stronger, and we will continue to build a robust national grassroots campaign to push for mandatory labeling across the country.



These measures prove what we already know: An educated and mobilized citizenry can fight back against the corporate control of our common resources, but our work is far from over. 


If you aren’t already on our mailing list, please join it now to remain informed on an ongoing basis about actions you can take to help build power to protect our food and water. We need your support to keep growing the movement! As the election demonstrated, together we can fight for the food and water protections we all want and deserve.

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