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

October 23rd, 2012

The Word from Pennsylvania: Fracking Isn’t Worth It

By Seth Gladstone

Within the swirl of propaganda floating around about the supposed benefits of fracking for natural gas, one theme seems to have unfortunately been taken to heart by some folks who are understandably anxious about these economically trying times. The idea, that fracking will bring immediate wealth and prosperity to those who engage with it, is as alluring as it is false.

New Yorkers and others who are currently grappling with the debate over whether to allow the dangerous and destructive drilling process on their lands deserve to know the truth about the hollow promises from the oil and gas industry. And there’s no one better to speak on the topic than real people from Pennsylvania who were sold the industry’s bill of goods themselves and were burned in the end. Now a few of these folks are getting their chance to tell New Yorkers what they’ve learned: that fracking isn’t worth it.

A brand new television ad from Food & Water Watch, featuring Pennsylvanians dealing personally with the horrible effects of fracking, has hit the airwaves in New York’s Southern Tier (the region that Governor Cuomo has threatened to turn into a fracking sacrifice zone.) Watch our new ad here:

Food & Water Watch has been highlighting the false fracking promises of New York’s oil and gas industry for some time. Our report on the matter details the costs of the practice to pubic health, public infrastructure, the environment and existing industries like tourism and agriculture, rebutting the industry’s promises of wealth for New York landowners and jobs for Southern Tier communities. Also, we were up on the airwaves of New York’s Southern Tier earlier this year. Our last ad targeting Governor Cuomo, profiled by The New York Times, highlighted the failure rates of fracking wells over time.

Though we’ll never be able to match the spending power and television might of the oil and gas industry, we know how important it is to make sure the truth about fracking is told to those who would be first and foremost affected by its devastating consequences. And we know that Governor Cuomo is hearing us. Watch our latest ad and make sure Governor Cuomo hears you too.

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October 11th, 2012

Tell the Major Networks to Stop Airing API’s Fracking Lies

By Kate Fried

When we watch the news, we would like to see credible, honest information about critical issues like our energy future — especially during election season. But the American Petroleum Industry (API) has other designs this year, shelling out untold amounts of cash on a misinformation campaign to sell the American public on the so-called wonders of natural gas. We aren’t buying it.

Large companies have always supported TV programming through their advertising dollars. There’s no getting around the fact that networks rely on advertisements to bring us our favorite shows. Yet there’s a distinct difference between a company trying to sell us a new car, and one that gobbles up the airwaves to seduce the public towards its thinly veiled political agenda.

API’s Vote 4 Energy campaign has flooded the airwaves and social media channels over recent months, trying to sell us on the notion that natural gas is clean and abundant, and that supporting its development is as patriotic as civic participation. According to the New York Times, the industry has spent more than $153 million this election year on ads promoting fossil fuels and knocking clean energy.

Why such an expense for an industry bent on making money? Because the oil and gas industry is in trouble. Even its darling, natural gas, is being debunked as just another dirty fossil fuel, and citizens around the world are fighting fracking.

It’s throwing money at its image problem—lots and lots of money, to wage its increasingly difficult public relations campaign. That’s the thing about powerful special interests; when they can’t get their way they try to spend their way out of their problems.

Many Americans are uninformed about the dangers of natural gas extraction, and with television ads on major networks costing a hefty sum, most of the groups seeking to educate the public with these facts can’t afford equal airtime.

That’s why we’re asking ABC, NBC and CBS to stop airing the oil and gas industry’s propaganda during national news broadcasts. We may not be able to match them in dollars, but we have two things on our side: the truth…and you. Are you just as tired of seeing oil and gas industry misinformation on your screen when you tune in to get the news of the day? If so, take action today, and ask the major networks to stop airing API’s fracking lies.

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September 26th, 2012

You Got Down With the Global Frackdown

By Kate Fried

This past Saturday we convened a little event called the Global Frackdown. Maybe you heard about it? Thousands of activists on five continents came together for over 200 events to send one, definitive message—Ban Fracking Now.

The movement to ban fracking is growing nationwide—all because of the hard work of people like you. You and your peers, concerned citizens around the globe from all walks of life united in your desire to preserve the health of your communities, started to catch wind of the public health and environmental risks associated with fracking. You did your research, and even when you saw politicians on the news touting the so-called “benefits” of natural gas, you had your doubts. You talked to your neighbors, formed your own organizations and started speaking out in order to protect the health of future generations.

Then when you noticed the oil and gas industry ramping up its PR offensive, frantically running for its spin machine, you knew they were up to no good. After all, why would any industry so motivated by profits squander a cent on ads if they knew they didn’t have a serious public relations battle on their hands?

Yes, you’ve been fighting fracking for a while now, and the Global Frackdown gave you a chance to take action in concert with thousands of like-minded individuals around the globe. Maybe you were in Brussels, protesting outside the European Parliament; perhaps you said “non” to fracking in Paris or asked your elected officials not to frack with the Karoo in South Africa. Was that you we spotted in Buffalo, once again asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking in New York? Or maybe you were one of the legions of activists who participated virtually.

Regardless of where you were, you joined with thousands of like-minded souls whose voices coalesced into one. You made your message clear—that you don’t want fracking anywhere on earth.

Ultimately, you know and we know that the fight to ban fracking is just getting started. The oil and gas industry has a seemingly endless supply of cash, but we have one thing on our side that they don’t—irrefutable facts, evidence that fracking is destroying our planet and our collective future. We won’t stand for it, and neither will you. And so, the fight continues. Thank you. Of course, we would also like to thank the more than 150 partner organizations around the world for their help in making the Global Frackdown possible.

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September 21st, 2012

Why It’s Time for a Global Frackdown


By Mark Schlosberg

 The oil and gas industry knows it has a fracking problem. Oil and gas companies and their apologists are spending tens of millions of dollars on misleading propaganda touting the supposed benefits of fracking and natural gas as a so-called “bridge fuel.” They are spending millions more lobbying elected officials to open new lands to fracking. They are even trying to convince the public that natural gas is clean energy.

Tomorrow, communities across the world are fighting back with one unified message: our movement is growing, our movement is strong, and we do not accept fracking and its impacts on our water, air, health and communities. It’s time to ban fracking now.

Read the full article…

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September 17th, 2012

Memo to Fracking Apologists: You’re Hurting Renewables (and You’re Greenwashing, Too)

By Wenonah Hauter

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Here’s a memo to the technocrats, pundits, environmental organizations and foundations that believe corporate collaborations and market-based solutions are the key to solving the critical environmental problems facing us. Why are you so afraid of fighting for what we really want—a future based on renewable energy and energy efficiency?

Any position short of a ban on fracking is hurting the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions in the long term, saddling us with 50 years of infrastructure to continue fracking for gas that will be exported around the world. It’s also helping to pave the way for a new phase of geopolitical dynamics (like we saw at Rio+20) where corporations are jostling to promote the market as the ultimate arbiter for the environment and corporations as the last hope for saving the planet.

Here are some of the arguments that are often used to greenwash fracking at the expense of a truly sustainable future:

Argument #1: Natural gas is a bridge to renewables

Let’s talk first about gas as a bridge fuel. Thanks to shale gas drilling, natural gas is cheap — so cheap that it’s taken investment away from renewables. NextEra Energy Inc. cancelled plans for new wind power projects thanks to cheap gas, according to Greenwire, and the U.S. government has said that the low price of natural gas is one of the threats to the future of wind energy.

Wind power comprised approximately 42 percent of the added electricity capacity in the United States in 2008 and 2009, and this declined to 25 percent in 2010 and 32 percent in 2011. Funding for clean energy overall plummeted in the first quarter of 2012 to just $27 billion — down 28 percent from the previous quarter.

So instead of creating a “bridge” to renewables, what shale gas has done is allow us to substitute one dirty fuel (coal) for another (fracked gas), likely making climate change even more costly and destructive in the coming decades.

Meanwhile, renewables have proven that they can forge ahead when policies are in place to support them. Germany is a renewable energy leader, getting 10 percent of the country’s power from renewables. It reached a record this year when on one day 50 percent of the country’s midday energy needs came from solar energy alone. Texas leads the United States in installed wind capacity and had days in 2012 where wind was responsible for a quarter of the state’s power. Likewise, wind energy delivered 20 percent of the Iowa’s energy from January through April 2011.

But it’s like none of these statistics even exist for those who tout natural gas as a fait accompli. Some, like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are supporting the development of fracking, saying that it’s better than coal and that renewables aren’t viable. Not only is the renewables revolution happening, particularly in regions where strong policies support their development, but, as comedian Bill Maher recently noted on his show, stating that wind and solar aren’t viable is like saying 100 years ago that cars aren’t going to replace horses.

Argument #2: Fracking for natural gas is not going away

What about the argument that fracking for natural gas isn’t going away, so we must work to make sure it’s well regulated? That ship has sailed. Thanks to the “Halliburton loophole” that Dick Cheney negotiated with Congress in 2005, fracking is exempt from several key pieces of federal environmental legislation. Piecemeal legislation at the state level will not address the devastating environmental problems that are well documented in states from Pennsylvania to Wyoming and Texas. Passing weak legislation that purports to solve the problem will make it more difficult to take action at the federal level. The following proposed regulatory changes Environmental Defense Fund is promoting don’t solve the problems:

  • Disclosing all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process: Trade-secrets are typically exempted in disclosure bills, but even naming the chemicals will not prevent them from doing damage. Further, many of the harmful contaminants in fracking wastewater are natural contaminants that normally stay deep underground — including heavy metals and radioactive material — which are brought up to the surface during the process.
  • Optimizing rules for well construction and operation: This could reduce failure rates of new wells a few percentage points, and lead most aging wells to fail after 30 years, instead of 20 years. But well casings will fail over time as the concrete degrades and pollutants will leak into the ecosystem. 
  • Minimizing water consumption, protecting groundwater and ensuring proper disposal of wastewater: Fracking takes large amounts of water. “Solutions” to this such as injecting highly flammable propane gel instead of water into wells creates more problems then it solves. Recycling the water that flows out of wells does not address the issue, because depending on the geologic formation, 30 to 70 percent of fracking water stays underground indefinitely. If wastewater is injected deep below ground, the long-term flow of fracking fluids and any displaced brines is beyond human control (not to mention that this practice is associated with small earthquakes). Finally, conventional wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to handle the contaminants in fracking wastewater, and treatment facilities that can handle these contaminants simply turn it into a solid waste disposal problem. These disposal methods all present an unacceptable long-term risk to vital underground sources of drinking water.
  • Improving air pollution controls, including capturing leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas: Leaking methane is a huge problem, and it happens at every stage from drilling and fracking to the end-use of the natural gas. But even if methane emissions were completely eliminated (and they won’t be) the carbon dioxide emissions from using natural gas are significant enough that massive investments to transition from coal to natural gas will do little to address global climate change. The problem isn’t the lack of air pollution controls; the problem is that drilling and fracking brings massive amounts of air pollutants to the surface that must be captured. And, even if efficiently captured, these pollutants will need to be disposed of safely as solid wastes.
  • Reducing the impact on roads, ecosystems and communities: The process of developing fracking sites, drilling and hauling wastewater requires over 1,000 truckloads per well — damaging roads and other infrastructure. Fracking makes rural communities into industrial sites — farms into factories. And once the industry leaves town, communities will be left with the legacy of pollution.  

Argument #3: Natural gas is beneficial to the environment

And for those who still insist in cloaking their positions behind the possible environmental benefits of gas over coal, these arguments don’t account for the fact that scientists now say that shale gas is actually as bad as coal, if not worse, in terms of driving global climate change.

Fracking in context: Profiting off of polluted water

Finally, let’s put fracking in a larger context. There is a whole other global industry surfacing to take advantage of the pollution and water scarcity that fracking will bring. I recently attended the Global Water: Oil and Gas Summit in Dubai, an industry shindig that essentially celebrated fracking’s boon of polluted water as a profit-making opportunity.

In fact, the water industry has declared fracking to be the single largest sector for profiting — a potential multi-billion dollar market. Companies can make money on both ends: by selling water to drillers and then by treating the toxic wastewater. Even the financial services industry wants to get in on the action of trading water — even polluted water. These schemes are promoted as the so-called Green Economy. But really, they are mere greenwash  (just like natural gas).

Grassroots activists all around the country are hungry to fight for the world they want, not the best that can be negotiated by groups that believe close collaboration with corporations is the way to transform policy. The policy dispute over fracking is part of this much larger difference of strategy about over how we can actually save our planet.

It’s time to stop inside deals and join together and create a movement

We are at a tipping point for so many environmental problems, and in order to go up against the most powerful companies in the world, we have to build a movement with the political power to hold elected officials accountable. Working for a ban is inspiring activists to do just that — to become strong enough to turn back the tide of greed and self-interest that is destroying our children’s futures.

So, for those wringing their hands and saying gas is the best we have and it’s not going away, I have a message: Join us and our voices will grow stronger. Together, we’ll force our decision makers to forge policies that support a vision for a true clean energy future, not one that’s bought and sold by the oil and gas industry.

Together, we can demand policies that prioritize renewable energy sources, not provide billions of dollars of tax loopholes to oil companies. We can ask for a ban on fracking, not help pave the way for it.

As long as environmental organizations like Environmental Defense Fund keep giving the oil and gas industry cover to keep doing what they are doing — sucking fossil fuels out of the ground — it will be harder for the grassroots to demand true, clean energy sources. Anything short of that is working within a system that wants to keep fossil fuels as the status quo — one that is happy to pay lip service to renewables and efficiency while essentially snuffing them out.

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Video: Global Frackdown, September 22, 2012

By Mark Schlosberg

The Global Frackdown will unite people on five continents in over 100 events on September 22 to call for a ban on fracking in their communities, and to advocate for the development of clean, sustainable energy solutions. Initiated by Food & Water Watch, over 150 consumer, environmental and public health organizations including CREDO Action, Environment America, Democracy for America, Friends of the Earth and 350.org are taking part in the Global Frackdown.

To find an event in your area, click here.

To endorse the Global Frackdown, click here.

Don’t forget to check out the frackdown on Facebook and Twitter.

September 5th, 2012

Memo to Governor Cuomo: We’ll Remember in 2016

By Wenonah Hauter

This ad will appear in the news section of tomorrow’s print edition of the Charlotte Observer. For the full-sized ad, click on the image above.

Dear Governor Cuomo,

True leaders help us forge solutions to difficult problems. And nowhere are new solutions needed more than in our energy sector, because we are currently using dirty fossil fuels at an unsustainable pace. Oil and gas extraction uses and abuses our precious freshwater resources, which are becoming scarcer and more polluted, thanks in large part to our reliance on fossil fuels. It’s a vicious cycle, and we need true solutions.  

But instead, Governor Cuomo, you seem poised to issue regulations that would pave the way for even more dirty energy development—the development of shale gas reserves in New York State through hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Opening up New York to fracking won’t happen without a fight—one that might cost you the White House in 2016.

When you arrive in Charlotte tomorrow for the Democratic National Convention, you’ll see we took out a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer to remind you that your decision on fracking will have repercussions way beyond New York, way beyond tomorrow. And we aren’t the only ones that think so. Over 100 grassroots, environmental and community groups nationwide endorsed our ad, all of them telling you that there is no safe fracking, and that the road to the White House is not lined with drilling rigs.

Governor Cuomo, Democrats in your own state have said that drilling could harm your presidential ambitions. Now, at the convention, you’re hearing from progressives around the country that this is an election issue. What will it take for you to listen to your base instead of the oil and gas industry?

People are angry that your administration shared the draft regulations with the oil and gas industry weeks before they were made public. This will remind voters of the time Dick Cheney met with energy officials in 2005, where they developed the so-called Halliburton Loophole, which exempts the oil and gas industry from key federal environmental legislation like the Safe Drinking Water Act and provisions of the Clean Air Act. Backroom deals with the oil and gas industry will not serve you in your pursuit of higher office.

Now, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has given his tacit endorsement of your rumored plan to sacrifice the Southern Tier of New York to the oil and gas industry, so long as New York City isn’t affected. His foundation also gave the Environmental Defense Fund $6 million dollars to pave the way for the development of so-called “safe” fracking, even though we know there is no such thing.

Why is Bloomberg supporting fracking? He says we need to move away from coal, and that wind and solar aren’t viable. This is a classic industry talking point, and it’s a cop-out. As Bill Maher recently said on his show, stating that wind and solar aren’t viable is like saying 100 years ago that cars aren’t going to replace horses.

It might be tempting to take cover behind prominent individuals and groups who have given in to the oil and gas industry’s tired refrain that shale gas development is inevitable. But true leaders look past the naysayers and those who have long since compromised their ideals to work within the game as defined by entrenched political interests. True leaders find real solutions.

So, Governor Cuomo, should you go forward with fracking, Wall Street billionaires and industry-funded non-profits will not provide you the political cover you’ll need to withstand the ire of committed grassroots groups who are fighting the oil and gas industry profiteers. We need leaders who can make the tough decisions that would forge the cleaner energy alternatives we need. Groups across the country are looking at New York to see whether you will provide that leadership or whether you will open New York to fracking. .

Fracking is an issue that is not only widely felt; it is deeply felt. Governor Cuomo, if you frack New York, we will remember in 2016.

August 27th, 2012

Environmental Defense Fund: Stop Your Sell-Out to the Gas Industry

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

By Wenonah Hauter

Updated 9/2/12*

I have news for the Environmental Defense Fund: the fracking activist community is shocked that you received $6 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies to advocate for fracking regulations. And we aren’t going to stand for it.

EDF says that they’ll be working for “responsible” regulation in 14 states. Of course, this is just double speak that means swooping into states where there is a strong grassroots movement against fracking and shilling for the oil and gas industry. They will claim to represent environmentalists while they promote regulation that is so weak even the gas industry can live with it.

Of course, everyone in the environmental movement knows that this is EDF’s modus operandi. In fact, for years, public interest advocates have rolled their eyes and complained to one another in private about how EDF undercuts their work time and time again. But, everyone is afraid to speak out because they might upset funders, who are turned off by disagreements among environmentalists.

Read the full article…

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August 21st, 2012

There’s No “Safe” Fracking, Governor Cuomo

By Alex Beauchamp

Update: Check out coverage of our commercial in The New York Times here.

If you’ve seen our commercial (above) running in New York State, you know that 6 percent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wells fail immediately, and 50 percent—yes, that’s half—fail over 30 years. That means if Governor Cuomo proceeds with his proposal to open up five counties in New York State to fracking, our water will be contaminated by this dirty process within a single generation.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Josh Fox, Oscar-nominated director of Gasland, on this ad running on network and cable TV stations in the Southern Tier—which will cover the five counties that the Governor is considering handing over to the oil and gas industry as sacrifice zones. The ad urges New Yorkers to call Governor Cuomo and tell him that there is no such thing as “safe fracking.”

Read the full article…

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August 15th, 2012

As a Yogurt Craze Boosts New York’s Dairy Industry, Fracking Could Can It

By Seth Gladstone 

Some things just don’t mix well. Like drinking and driving. Or rain and parades. So as Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks to encourage and expand dairy production in New York State to meet a growing demand for yogurt, he’d do well to avoid things that might hamper those efforts – things that don’t mix well with dairy production. Things like fracking.

At the Capitol today, Gov. Cuomo brought together hundreds of dairy industry professionals for what he has billed as a “Yogurt Summit,” an opportunity to discuss ways to bolster New York’s yogurt production as nationwide demand for the creamy treat – particularly Greek-style yogurt – grows.

Gov. Cuomo is right to be looking at ways to help New York’s dairy farmers and the struggling upstate economy with solutions based on agricultural sustainability and smart land use. But wouldn’t common sense dictate that he also consider factors that could hamper the very business he’s looking to promote? Cuomo’s foolhardy push to open his state to the dangers of fracking is directly at odds with his quest to increase dairy production in New York.

Read the full article…

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