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Blog Posts: Fracking

October 10th, 2013

How To Host A Global Frackdown Event In Your Community

By Katherine Cirullo

From last year’s Global Frackdown.

Thousands of people across five continents took part in last year’s Global Frackdown and this year’s is shaping up to be an even more impressive show of solidarity. On October 19, individuals and activist groups in communities around the world will gather to raise their voices and tell their local elected officials that they want a future lit by clean, renewable energy, not dangerous fossil fuels. So far, over 200 events are planned in 19 countries. The movement to ban fracking has grown strong and wide over the past year, but it needs your help to keep the momentum going!

So, you want to get involved in this monumental, world-wide day of action to protect your community from the harmful effects fracking has on air, water, health and public safety? Simple. Host a Global Frackdown event! We’ll give you the tools; all you need is a bit of creativity and some fire in your gut.  

Global Frackdown events should be educational, and should build your local movement against fracking. They should also be fun! The more people we have as part of our movement, the more power we will have to stand up against the oil and gas industry’s global pressure to increase gas development — so let’s get to it. Here’s how you can organize a successful Global Frackdown event in your community.


  1. Don’t try to plan the event by yourself. Recruit a friend to help you. 
  2. Register your event on our website so nearby members of your community can join. You can also get people to join your event by posting an event listing in your local newspaper, on social media or by handing out flyers. 
  3. Visit our website for materials and talking points.
  4. Target your local elected officials. Their job is to listen to constituents. If you need help on who to target, contact us! E-mail kkiefer(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

The Event:

What does a Global Frackdown action entail? That’s ultimately up to you, but we have some ideas to get you started.

  1. Collect Petitions. Set up a table at a local farmers market or school event, host a potluck at home with your friends or host a film screening (see number 3). These are all fun, simple ways to collect signatures for a ban on fracking and converse with those around you about the issue. Petition signatures are a direct way of showing local officials that your community supports the movement to ban fracking. When you have finished collecting, send them to us and we will help you deliver them to your local decision makers.
  2. Make a Human Sign. Time to get creative and be visible! What do you want to tell your local officials? Choose a public space and either spell a message with actual people or have them hold up individual letters. This is a great way to get kids involved with some poster board and markers. Decide ahead of time when and where everyone should meet. And, don’t forget to take pictures!
  3. Host a film screening. Gasland and Gasland II are compelling films about fracking that will inform your community and spark discussion after the film. To request a copy, email kkiefer(at)fwwatch(dot)org. You can host a private screening at your home or reserve a space and invite your community. College campuses or community and arts centers are great. Tell your elected officials about it, collect petition signatures and be sure to check back with us after.
  4. Host a rally. What better way to make your concerns heard than by shouting them? Gather your community and together tell your elected officials what you are fighting for by holding a rally in a public space outside his or her office. Are you fighting for clean water? Clean air? Safe food? Safe communities? Get your friends involved by asking them to create signs and come up with a few chants. Make sure to bring petitions, take photo and video and have fun! Download our toolkit for sample chants and other materials.
  5. Don’t forget to spread the world (and the photos) on the web. Visit our social media guide for how to connect with the Global Frackdown online. Or, send your photos to kkiefer(at)fwwatch(dot)org and we will share them. Social media is a great way for you to keep us updated on your event and to also tune in with other events around the world. Most importantly, it is a way to make the movement heard. 

Since last year’s Global Frackdown, the movement has passed more than 336 measures against fracking in communities across the United States. Bulgaria and France have upheld bans. The Netherlands and Czech Republic have passed moratoria. South Africa and Ireland have delayed fracking. Communities in other countries have mobilized to pass local legislation. The second annual Global Frackdown is less than two weeks away. Join us!

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October 9th, 2013

New Mexico Is Joining The Global Frackdown, Are You?

By Eleanor Bravo


Northeastern New Mexico is a peaceful, pristine countryside that can take your breath away. It is sometimes described as “the place where the plains meet the mountains,” where open pastures run up against the eastern slopes of the majestic Sangre de Cristos. For outdoor lovers, it’s paradise. For the people who live there, it is a sacred place rich in culture, history and tradition. Many of the region’s farmers and ranchers have tended and lived off the land for several generations. It is a vital resource for them, as is the water that allows their traditional livelihoods to flourish.

Unfortunately, the way of life for many in this region is now threatened. Northeastern New Mexico is one of many rural areas across the world that is being eyed for fracking. Our pristine land sits above shale deposits where natural gas is trapped. The region is an attractive target for well drillers, but oil and gas development greatly threatens local communities. Promising jobs and big profits for locals, the oil and gas industry is intent on destroying this natural and majestic landscape with fracking. The process is likely to ruin the region’s air, water, public health and way of life. To protect what they depend on, the people of Northeastern New Mexico and agricultural communities across the world are fighting back. Read the full article…

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October 2nd, 2013

From Fracking to CAFOs, Methane Just Got a Lot Dirtier

By Hugh MacMillan 

It’s day two of the notorious federal government shut down, and some EPA employees may be wondering how to spend their free time. We have an idea for them—they can bone up on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

Last week, the committee released the first of several multi-thousand-page reports summarizing all of climate science in one enormous body of work. Surprise! Climate change remains an enormous problem, and natural gas remains a false solution. 

We’ve known for a while that oil and gas development and industrialized food production release methane into the atmosphere. But this report states, unequivocally, that methane is significantly worse for the climate than stated in the IPCC’s 2005 report—36 percent worse, to be exact.

Read the full article…

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September 27th, 2013

Numbers Don’t Lie: New Food & Water Watch Report Reveals the Social Costs of Fracking

By Katherine Cirullo

social costs of fracking cover

Click to read the report.

Over the past several years, the oil and gas industry has muscled its way into rural America under the promise of providing jobs, boosting the economy and moving the nation into energy independence. The industry has pressured families and farmers into offering up their land in exchange for financial compensation. But, as we now know, this is a troubling trade. The oil and gas industry’s empty promises have left many communities in the dust with a slew of environmental, health and social consequences to deal with as a result of shale gas development. And, these consequences are sometimes irreparable. Attend a town hall meeting in rural Pennsylvania and you will hear the cry of mothers who fear for the safety of their children, or nurses distraught by what they are seeing in the clinic. It is time our nation’s leaders recognize the full extent of the damage that oil and gas development does.

Food & Water Watch conducted an empirical study of communities located in the epicenter of the natural gas boom – the Marcellus Shale – to measure the social effects of fracking. The Social Costs of Fracking: A Pennsylvania Case Study, compares and analyzes ten years of public data from rural Pennsylvania, beginning in the year 2000 when shale gas development was non-existent, and ending in 2010 when thousands of well pads and rigs spattered the landscape. Read the full article…

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September 23rd, 2013

For Democrats Nationwide, Pennsylvania Offers a Lens on the Widening Rift Over Fracking

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

By Wenonah Hauter

The Democratic Party has a few problems. Recently, President Obama has been forced to confront growing discord within his own party over a number of issues, from foreign policy to economics and the nomination of a new Federal Reserve chair. But another fissure between the Obama Administration and rank-and-file Democrats across the country, one that’s been slowly developing for years, has suddenly cracked wide open. It threatens to split the party in two, just as it quite literally splits the bedrock beneath our feet. It is the extreme gas drilling and extraction process know as fracking.

In large, solidly Blue states like California and New York, where Democrats with national responsibilities (or national aspirations) consistently look for inspiration and cash, local grassroots movements against fracking have evolved and expanded into mainstream statewide forces. But perhaps more notably, resistance to fracking among Democrats has also recently flourished in states less reliably liberal, less environmentally inclined, and situated smack in the middle of oil and gas country. States like Pennsylvania. Read the full article…

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September 19th, 2013

Fracking a Flood Plain: How Fracking Can Make a Natural Disaster So Much Worse

By Katherine Cirullo

Fracking rig and wastewater pit

As a former resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado, my heart aches for all of those affected by massive flooding that has occurred over the past several days throughout the Colorado Front Range. Friends have updated me with photographs of their submerged backyards and homes, bike paths turned into a roaring rivers and powerful rapids consuming what used to be the quiet “Boulder Creek.” It saddens me that Colorado is dealing with yet another natural disaster  – the state has been plagued by raging wildfires all summer. But, I am also troubled by something that has been substantially under-reported: possible widespread contamination from thousands of flooded oil and gas facilities. Might this be a precedent for more fracking disasters to come?

Weld County, one of several in Colorado inundated by the flood, is also one of the most heavily-fracked counties in Colorado. Photographs show oil and gas tanks toppled over by the surge, submerged well pads and footage of oil slicks floating on the surface of the floodwaters. Fracking Colorado’s flood plains puts the health and safety of local communities, and those downstream, in obvious danger.

At least one oil and gas pipeline and an unknown amount of storage tanks in the flooded area have busted and are leaking toxic, cancer-causing materials into the floodwaters. Furthermore, oil and gas facilitates often use open-air pits to store fracking wastewater laden with toxic chemicals. Hugh MacMillan, Senior Researcher at Food & Water Watch explains that when these pits fill with water, which they have, there is nothing lining the surface to prevent the fracking wastewater from spilling out of the pit and into the floodwaters, eventually reaching rivers and streams. Floodwaters containing toxic fracking chemicals such as benzene and toluene might contaminate the drinking water supply.

In addition, water contamination in the area will also affect wildlife and a vast amount of agricultural land. Weld County is also the largest agricultural county in Colorado. Leakage from oil and gas storage tanks, pits and pipelines is likely to affect crops and livestock. Small and medium sized farmers in the area have suffered consequences of extreme drought all summer while big agribusiness has been able to secure (i.e. buy) their water rights. Now, all ag producers must deal with a flood made worse by fracking.

Colorado has seen two ends of extreme weather in just a four-month time span. Earlier this summer it was severe drought and wildfires, and now, torrential flooding. Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Getche’s Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment said the floods are likely a result of drought-hardened soil unable to absorb heavy rain, sparse vegetation due to wildfires and a warming climate that has produced unusually strong rain clouds. “As the climate warms further, the hydrologic cycle is going to get more intense,” he said.

Not only does the fracking process usurp one of the world’s most precious resources by using millions of gallons of fresh water per frack, but the process is not clean – its emissions exacerbate climate change. Contrary to what industry-sponsored research may claim, fracking emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide. The industry is a culprit in the climate change crisis that is devastating Colorado and communities abroad. Read the full article…

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September 17th, 2013

Frackademia Exposed: Federally Funded, Industry Driven

By Katherine Cirullo

Recently, Steve Horn of the DeSmog Blog uncovered shocking information that leaves us shaking our head at our nation’s leaders and our once trusted scholars. Embedded in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is section 999, which describes the U.S. Department of Energy-run Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA). We knew previously that oil and gas companies and industry executives have funded and advised academic research on fracking, but the U.S. government has a major role in these projects, too. Federal funding of oil and gas industry controlled “frackademia” leaves us concerned for the future of fracking, and for our air, water and public safety.

In May, Food & Water Watch released an extensive review of frackademic projects. Research revealed the projects were insufficiently controlled by universities, lacked peer review and were developed by advisory boards with undue pro-industry agendas.  Ties between research and “Big Oil and Gas” companies have led to the promotion of shale gas development under the guise of credible academic research.

In June, we blogged about a slightly different form of frackademia: Universities have been scrutinized for their intention to lease campus land to the industry for “fracking research” in exchange for lowered tuition rates and research funding. Obvious conflicts of interest in these cases have led student activists and community members to speak up for their school’s academic integrity, as well as for the health and safety of the community. As a result, some project proposals have been put on hold. Read the full article…

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September 16th, 2013

New Industry-Sponsored Study of Fracking’s Impact on Climate Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

By Hugh MacMillan 

A new study on methane emissions, led by researchers from the University of Texas and URS Corporation, Inc. and coordinated by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), will be trumpeted by the oil and gas industry today and for months to come. It gives them misleading talking points they can use to deny the problem of methane emissions linked to drilling and fracking for oil and gas, and it distracts from the fact that, even ignoring methane emissions, natural gas (which is mostly methane) is still a fossil fuel and increased dependence on it keeps us on track for catastrophic changes to the climate. 

Read the full article…

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September 10th, 2013

My Visit to Balcolme: Another Community Fighting Fracking

By Wenonah Hauter

Drilling rig in Balcolme

Yesterday I was at the bucolic village of Balcolme speaking with activists Kathryn McWhirter and Vanessa Vine about the invasion of their community by the oil and gas industry. Kathryn and her husband Charles are wine experts who have lived in the village for 10 years. Vanessa lives four miles outside of the village and until recently was a secretary at the local school. These women, both mothers of grown children, are the backbone of their community. As dedicated activists, they have put their lives on hold, are sacrificing their careers and are putting their hobbies aside to fight for the future of their children and grandchildren.

Balcolme, just over an hour’s train ride south of London, seems too beautiful, too peaceful and too quaint to be the site of fracking or police violence. The train makes it possible for commuters to live in one of the most beautiful and verdant parts of England.

I shared a pot of tea with activists in Kathryn’s sunroom overlooking her very lovely English garden, where a few fancy heirloom chickens delicately paraded for our entertainment. I heard the sad tale of how the local laird, a beneficiary of Britian’s feudal land system (who is also a member of the village council) has betrayed his community. Simon Greenwood, the owner of 120 houses and numerous farms in the area, used his position on the village council to subvert the democratic process. When the paperwork allowing the exploration came up for discussion at the village council meeting, he didn’t bother to disclose that he had leased the land or that he stood to benefit from the deal.

In fact, there was no discussion at all about fracking at the 2010 council meeting where the issue was briefly raised and the paperwork granting permission sailed through. No community input was gathered and the permitting process defies logic and reason. No consideration was given to water resources or the effects of air pollution.

So today, the energy company Cuadrilla is using the dangerous procedure to explore for oil less than a mile from the Victorian era Ouse Valle Viaduct that provides water for 750,000 people. Ninety-two feet high and almost 1,500 feet long, with 37 circular arches, it could certainly be destroyed by seismic activity. The incessant noise from drilling is angering local farmers. Local residents despair of the damage to the endangered species and the countryside.

A peaceful protest camp has lined the road leading to the drilling for the past few months. During some periods, as many as 600 people have camped near the site. A recent march from the village included hundreds of people. Local residents like Kathryn and Vanessa have provided food and water and have often spent time at the camp themselves. The camp kitchen was quite impressive, full of local vegetables, nutritious foods and a fantastic bouquet of flowers.

As I prepared to catch my train back to London and to go onward with my travels, it was obvious that large numbers of police were gathering. This morning, I sadly read the news. A violent eviction of peaceful protesters was taking place.

Kathryn’s statement to BBC says it all: “We are horrified at the treatment of these dedicated people who have been here with our blessing for weeks now, helping us to protect our countryside, our health, our water, our air.

“The council is not acting today on behalf of the majority of residents of our village.”

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August 27th, 2013

On a Trip to Fracking Country, Hearing of Hardships Firsthand

Fracking victim Ray Kemble

By Jill Pape

On a recent road trip to Pennsylvania, I saw a sight that was both familiar and unfamiliar: fracking rigs.  Though I’d been working for the past year with Food & Water Watch and had seen countless images of fracking, it was my first time seeing the drilling process up close and personal. And out there in Pennsylvania, the sight of drilling rigs was hard to miss. Driving down the main road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, we saw well pads every few hundred feet — many just a stone’s throw away from neighborhood homes.

But beyond the familiar drilling rigs, much of what I saw in Dimock was a huge surprise. Where I’d expected to come across outraged citizens and families complaining about tainted water, what I encountered instead was chilling: silence.

Where were all the families I’d seen in Gasland, lighting their tap water on fire and speaking out about their fracking-induced migraines and mystery rashes? As we passed home after home of suspiciously quiet residents, the truth began to surface. Read the full article…

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