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

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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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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