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Blog Posts: Fracking

April 30th, 2015

Mapping Out Fracking’s Dangers

By Briana Kerensky

It feels like spring only just arrived, but as of tomorrow we’re less than a month away from the official start of summer: Memorial Day. National parks and forests across the country will welcome millions of hikers, campers, photographers “picnic-ers,” and others this summer: people looking to leave home for a while and enjoy America’s natural beauty.

But oil and gas corporations want to visit the United States’ public lands for a very different reason: to profit off their oil and gas reserves via fracking.

Send an email to your members of Congress to support and co-sponsor the bill to ban fracking on public lands.

TAKE ACTION

Did you know that about 20 percent of U.S. oil and gas reserves and resources are beneath federal public lands? Some of these public lands are next to our most beautiful national parks, including Glacier National Park in Montana, or national forests like George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia and Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, to name a few.

But it can be hard to visualize the scope of the danger that fracking poses to our public lands. That’s why Food & Water Watch created a map to help illustrate the vast span of public lands across America, and illuminate where Big Oil and Gas corporations aim to drill and frack through it. Explore the map.

BlogThumb_PubLandsMapPreview543w

Explore the map and see where fracking can harm public lands.

The yellow areas are U.S. federal lands. The red areas in the map are where — given inconsistent data — there are oil and gas deposits. Lands in red are where there’s already been a wave of drilling and fracking for oil and gas, or where companies envision fracking before long. The overlapping orange areas are public lands that are either being fracked now, or could be soon. Check out the blue pins to learn about specific public lands and how they’re at risk from fracking.

Fracking on public lands such as these is dangerous on many levels: it introduces toxic chemicals to water; it disrupts the habitats of millions of animals, including endangered species; it poses serious risks to human health, such as breast cancer; and it spurs on climate change. The production of oil and natural gas in 2013 from federal public lands led to more than 292 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, or about what 61 million cars emit in a year. 

No amount of regulation will protect our public lands, health, drinking water and climate from the impacts of fracking. About 90 percent of federally managed lands are available for oil and gas leasing, while only 10 percent are reserved for conservation, recreation, wildlife and cultural heritage.

If we want to preserve our nation’s natural heritage for future generations, we must act. The Protect Our Public Lands Act was recently introduced to Congress, and is the strongest piece of federal legislation against fracking to date. No amount of regulation will protect our public lands or communities from the impacts of this dangerous practice. Tell Congress to pass the Protect Our Public Lands Act and ban fracking on public lands now and forever.

April 29th, 2015

California Drought: Will Governor Brown Stop the Biggest Water Abusers?

By Wenonah Hauter and Adam Scow

1504_CA-Drought-BlogThumbBy now, the whole nation is aware that its fruit and vegetable basket, California, is in the fourth year of an unprecedented drought. One NASA scientist recently projected that the state may only have roughly a year’s supply of water left in its reserves. While that number is not entirely cut and dry (pardon the pun), it’s clear that California’s water crisis is real and that solutions are late in coming. For the first time in the Golden State’s history, its Governor, Jerry Brown, has placed mandatory water restrictions on residents and municipalities.

We can all agree that individual water conservation – efficient toilets and washing machines, shorter showers and smarter landscaping – should be expanded and embedded in our culture. But restrictions on households are not enough to dig us out of our water woes. Given that residential and municipal uses account for less than fifteen percent of California’s annual water use, we must ask: who is guzzling California’s water and what should Governor Brown do to rein in these users?

Below we identify some of California’s most egregious water abusers and offer some commonsense steps for Governor Brown’s consideration.

Big Agriculture

The Almond
On the desert-like west side of the San Joaquin Valley, almond orchards stretch as far as the eye can see. But this nut empire is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood: in the past five years, skyrocketing global demand for the cash crop has enabled it to double in size and become the second-biggest water consuming crop in California. The arid climate and selenium-laced soils in this region make it a kind of madness to grow this thirsty crop here, where it takes more than double the water to grow almonds than in Northern California. Agribusiness giants like Beverly Hills-based billionaire Stewart Resnick are raking in profits from these crops, about seventy percent of which are exported overseas. The Westlands Water District, where many of these orchards are based, has pumped more than one-million acre feet of groundwater in the past two years – more water than Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco combined use in a whole year – to produce these nuts, threatening the region’s water supply, and causing the ground to sink as much as a foot per year in some places. What’s more, most of this crop is exported abroad—meaning, effectively, the water is exported along with it.

Factory Farms
Industrialized animal agriculture is notoriously water-intensive. For example, Food & Water Watch estimates that it takes 150 million gallons of water a day to maintain the dairy cows on California’s mega-dairies. That calculation does not include the large quantities of water needed to raise the feed for dairy cows in California or to move manure into storage systems; it is just the water given to cows to drink and used to wash cows and buildings. A lack of available numbers tallying the meat industry’s water use in California presents a problem as the State seeks to tackle the drought crisis.

Alfalfa
Of all crops grown in California, alfalfa uses the single largest share of agricultural water, so it clearly deserves attention. Like almonds, alfalfa is exported overseas, but is also used to feed dairy cows in California. Alfalfa is grown in some of the state’s hottest and driest areas, including the Imperial Valley, and is exported to feed livestock. Interestingly, though, acreage devoted to growing alfalfa in California is expected to shrink 11 percent this year, according to Tom Philpott and Julia Lurie in this recent Mother Jones piece, as the agricultural industry increases production of cash crops like almonds and other “pricey nuts.”

Big Oil

It’s estimated that each year, the oil industry in California uses eighty-two billion gallons of water – enough to supply both San Diego and San Francisco for a year. While agriculture dwarfs the oil industry in terms of overall water use in California – where more than one million people lack access to safe drinking water – it’s well-documented that the industry’s dirty practices like fracking, acidizing and cyclic steam injection are permanently contaminating and destroying water California can’t afford to lose. What’s more, recent reports have brought to light that this industry has been illegally injecting billions of gallons of its wastewater into protected drinking water aquifers.

Bottled Water

California is home to over 100 bottled water facilities that every year bottle millions of gallons of water for private profit. In Sacramento it is estimated that each year, the notorious multinational water hog, Nestlé, pumps around fifty million gallons of local groundwater to be bottled and sold for 1,000 times the cost of tap water. Nestlé pays just shy of $1.00 per 748 gallons of water it taps from Sacramento’s municipal water supply, then resells it for thousands of times more in environmentally damaging plastic bottles. While Food & Water Watch has always opposed bottled water, during a historic drought the moral imperative for ending this practice is crystal clear.

Solutions

As he calls on California’s 38 million residents to conserve, Governor Brown must also take bold action to rein in uses by these corporate water abusers. The Governor oversees the State Water Board, which is empowered under the California constitution to manage water for the public good. To serve that imperative, Governor Brown should quickly take the following first steps:

  1. Align California agricultural production with the realities of the State’s water supply. The State routinely promises water users, including industrial agricultural users, five times more surface water than it can provide. The State must reduce demands to meet the reality of California’s water supply.
  2. Manage groundwater as a public resource to prevent depletion. The State, albeit poorly, manages surface water for the public good, but groundwater – the State’s water savings account for future generations – is largely managed privately. The State should start with immediate, sensible restrictions on groundwater pumping. In the long-term, the State should retire from production the toxic, arid lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that we do not have the water to support and compensate producers fairly for their losses.
  3. Place an immediate moratorium on fracking and the bottling of California’s water for private profit.

It’s Californians’ job to exercise their democratic rights, starting with signing this petition urging the Governor to take these bold actions. While some have suggested that people boycott almonds or make other changes in their diet, the realities of the global food system are such that corporate agribusiness will continue to abuse our water and simply export the crops we wouldn’t be buying. In other words, we can’t shop our way out of the crisis.

It’s time for Jerry Brown to exercise courageous leadership that fixes the long-time mismanagement and corporate abuse of water that threatens the future of California’s economy and agriculture. There are no easy shortcuts: the governor must govern.

Wenonah Hauter is the Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, and Adam Scow is the organization’s California Director. 

April 23rd, 2015

Congress Holds First Hearing on Banning Fracking; Too Bad It’s A Circus

By Wenonah Hauter

WenonahHauter.Profile

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch

If it wasn’t about the future of the planet, I’d laugh at the chutzpah. One day after Earth Day, the GOP-led House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, chaired by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith (recipient of more than $600,000 from the oil and gas industry) held a hearing about efforts to ban fracking. Obviously, Big Oil and Gas is mighty worried about the success of the powerful grassroots movement to ban fracking.

Where to even begin? Let’s start with the headline speakers. Not even one person was invited to represent the affected communities from around the country, nor was one of the hundreds of members of Americans Against Fracking invited to discuss why a ban on fracking is crucial.

Instead, the GOP invited the Environmental Defense Fund, a group that has decried efforts to ban fracking, claiming that if “best practices” are used, it can be done safely. EDF is a “strategic partner” of the pro-fracking Center for Sustainable Shale Development alongside corporate giants Chevron and Shell. In his testimony, EDF’s representative repeated many industry talking points.

Starting to get the picture? Wait, there’s more. In the height of irony, a representative from Energy In Depth, an industry-funded front group, was on hand to release a new white paper decrying how the environmental groups get foundation money (and, as far as I can tell, the EDF representative never refuted their outrageous claims.) Meanwhile, while conducting research for my upcoming book Frackopoly, we discovered through SEC filings that the top 10 oil and gas companies had almost $80 billion in profits in 2014; and it was ExxonMobil, the largest fracker today, that spent millions funding climate deniers. Energy In Depth was created by the Independent Petroleum Association of America “to combat new environmental regulations.” Early funders included some of the largest oil and gas companies on earth, including BP, Chevron, and Shell.

No, it isn’t public interest foundations that are paying Energy In Depth’s salaries—it’s money from climate denying companies that are devastating the environment. No wonder they’re alarmed that New York State listened to the increasing body of science that shows fracking is bad news; this hearing is the latest proof that industry is working in overdrive to discredit the work of scientists that believe fracking is dangerous to public health, our environment and communities.

We’re not surprised the scientist present on today’s panel raised no such alarms. Dr. Donald Siegel, a scientist at Syracuse University, was recently accused of failing to disclose fees he received from Chesapeake Energy in a study on methane contamination of drinking water wells from fracking. His study concluded that proximity to a fracked well was not necessarily linked to methane concentrations in groundwater. The study was also criticized for its methane testing methods, and put under ethics review.

Industry groups, including Energy In Depth, predictably cheered the findings. In his testimony today, Dr. Siegel criticized a methane study that conflicts with his study’s conclusions by suggesting that it used skewed samples.

Christi Craddick, the Chair of the Railroad Commission of Texas, the oil and gas regulator that is a toady for the industry, was another panel member. When the city of Denton, Texas, passed a ban on fracking in November of 2014, Craddick announced that she would ignore the ban and continue to issue fracking permits.

Today’s event wasn’t a serious exercise in democracy. It was a circus. Congress can do better. In fact, members of Congress have an excellent opportunity right now to listen to the growing chorus of advocates who are demanding that our leaders put people and the planet over oil and gas industry profits: new legislation in the House was announced yesterday to ban fracking on public lands—the strongest federal legislation against fracking to-date.

This very orchestrated hearing shows that a growing movement is getting behind the ever-deepening body of science showing that we need to ban fracking—and it’s making the industry very nervous.

April 22nd, 2015

Time for Congress to Protect our Public Lands from Fracking

By Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter at a public lands rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday.

Wenonah Hauter at a public lands rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday.

Today is Earth Day, an ideal time to think about what we can do to better preserve and protect our environment. Fittingly, the Protect Our Public Lands Act, which would ban fracking on all federal lands, was reintroduced today by Congressmembers Mark Pocan and Jan Schakowsky, and 12 additional cosponsors.

Sadly, fracking has already seriously damaged our public lands. By the end of 2014, oil and gas companies held leases on more than 34 million acres of public land, and more than 200 million additional acres are currently being targeted for drilling. These lands were set aside by past generations for the protection and enjoyment of future generations. Yet the oil and gas industry has been allowed and even encouraged by our current crop of federal leaders to decimate this land.

When President Obama’s Bureau of Land Management originally proposed rules to regulate fracking on public lands, more than 650,000 public comments were delivered demanding an outright ban on the practice instead. Ironically, President Obama is giving his Earth Day address from south Florida’s Everglades today, a delicate wetlands habitat that is under threat from fracking on adjacent public lands. While Obama selected the Everglades to highlight the risk that climate change poses to the location and the rest of our planet, his Earth Day message is wildly inconsistent with his support for fracking.

More and more Americans are demanding real action against fracking on the federal level. We are fortunate to have key members of Congress who are willing to heed this call. The rising national movement against fracking has been driven not just by emerging science, but also a groundswell of grassroots activism. In response, New York enacted a statewide ban in December and the Maryland General Assembly recently passed a two-and-a-half-year moratorium on fracking. It is becoming more clear that regulating fracking still risks accidental spills, water contamination, methane leaks, earthquakes and habitat destruction. The only way to negate these risks is to ban fracking entirely.

The Protect Our Public Lands Act is a huge opportunity for Congress to get on the right side of history by protecting national resources and heritage, while also decreasing America’s contribution to climate change. It is time for real action to be taken to protect our country’s pristine lands and pass the Protect Our Public Lands Act. Banning fracking on public lands should be a no-brainer for Congress and the President.

Tell you member of Congress to support the Protect Our Public Lands Act!

April 6th, 2015

Standing Up For Philadelphia’s Sustainable Economy

By Judy Wicks

Judy Wicks

Judy Wicks is joining Food & Water Watch to fight the “Dirty Fossil Fuel Plan”.

Philadelphia’s biggest polluters are trying to bring even more dirty and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure to our city, threatening our sustainable local economy and the health of our citizens.

In the early 1970s, my block of Victorian brownstones faced demolition to make way for a strip mall. Compelled to save our homes, my neighbors and I organized, fought the demolition plan and won. I realized then that people can exercise our true power when we work together.

It was on the first floor of my house on that block that I founded the White Dog Café in 1983, which became a pioneer in Philadelphia’s vibrant farm-to-table restaurant scene. Now, the oil and gas industry is pushing forward a plan they’re calling the Philadelphia “energy hub” that would sideline sustainable local economies like our bountiful local food system. So I’m standing with Food & Water Watch and the other organizations working to fight the “Dirty Fossil Fuel Plan.”

This is important to me, not only because a fossil fuel-based economy threatens life on Earth for future generations, but also because it poses an immediate danger. Every day, oil trains carrying highly flammable crude oil pass right through our neighborhoods, only blocks from my own home. Across the continent, these same trains have derailed, causing horrific explosions and fires that have lasted for days.

Judy Wicks oil train

Judy Wicks standing in front of an oil train, just a few blocks away from her home.

Philadelphia could be next.

Tragically, natural gas explosions have already happened in Philadelphia. In my neighborhood, where the lines are nearly 100 years old, gas leaks are a regular occurrence. Last year, a row house only four blocks from mine blew up due to a gas leak, destroying adjacent houses and damaging 10 homes. Residents escaped with their lives, but their homes were completely destroyed. Just last week, a gas explosion in New York City collapsed three buildings, killing two and injuring nearly 20 people.

Philadelphia has the opportunity to plan a safe and clean energy future and to grow our urban economy to be among America’s most sustainable cities. We can invest in our regional food and renewable energy systems and encourage the sustainable economies already thriving in our city. However, some of our city’s dirtiest fossil fuel executives have a different plan in mind. They want to turn Philadelphia into a hub for dirty energy with more oil trains, more gas pipelines and more explosive fossil fuels like liquefied natural gas. Let’s make sure that the Philadelphia City Council does not invest our tax money in this dying, dead-end and deadly industry.

Like the mall that nearly demolished my home over 30 years ago, the “Dirty Fossil Fuel Plan” entraps us in a stale vision that we need to move beyond, and precludes new and creative dreams like White Dog Café once was for me. Help us defeat these fossil fuel pipe dreams and protect a vibrant and healthy future for Philadelphia!

Click here to send a message to Philadelphia City Council urging them to steer away from this dangerous plan.

Thanks for taking action.

Judy Wicks is the founder of the White Dog Café. She also founded Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and Fair Food Philly. 

March 26th, 2015

Fracking Company Sues for Access to Ohio Town’s Water

By Alison Auciello

UnknownHere in Ohio, the fracking industry can get water from just about anywhere for their thirsty drilling endeavors. Apparently, that’s still not enough for this water-intensive industry. Yesterday, the Oklahoma-based Gulfport Energy sued Barnesville, Ohio to bully them into allowing continued withdrawals from the Slope Creek Reservoir.

The fracking process uses up to 4.1 million gallons per gas well, and 2 million gallons per oil well, and that number is expected to grow. This intensive water use, combined with Ohio’s dry fall, would not leave enough water for Barnesville residents. That’s why officials stopped water withdrawals for any other purposes besides municipal use last fall due to abnormally low water levels. As Village Solicitor Marlin Harper told Think Progress, “We felt like we had to shut everyone off to protect the regular users…” because “We don’t have unlimited water.”

There is no shortage of options for oil and gas companies in terms of buying water. And thanks to multiple sweetheart deals with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), oil and gas companies can purchase it on the cheap. Out-of-state companies have purchased hundreds of millions of gallons of water over the last couple of years from reservoirs in the largest watershed within Ohio’s borders. This year, frackers plan to take billions of gallons from the Muskingum Watershed at the rate of less than ten dollars per 1,000 gallons.

The special treatment for fracking companies must end, especially when it means depriving people of water. The water crisis in Toledo last summer should be warning enough of the importance of access to water, and Barnesville took a step to avoid their own crisis and stood up for their citizens when they put their drinking water first.

We can recognize when the industry uses scare tactics and expensive legal action to feed their insatiable greed for profit, and we stand with Barnesville. We can only hope that the judge puts an end to this legal assault on the community’s water and throws the case out.

March 24th, 2015

Bonnie Raitt: Taking A Stand Against Fracking

By Bonnie Raitt, Musician and Activist

1503_FBSq_RaittQuote-C1I’ve been involved in many movements for social justice in my lifetime, from opposing destructive fossil fuel and nuclear energy projects, to standing up for human rights and music royalty reform. As a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy, I feel that one of the most critical environmental issues of our time is banning fracking everywhere because it destroys our water, our communities and our planet.

Food & Water Watch has partnered with Movement Music Records to put out a compilation record, “Buy This Fracking Album,” that 22 artists (including myself) have provided tracks to in an effort to spread the word about the dangers of fracking.

Can you help support the “Fracking Album” project to help build the movement to ban fracking?

Food & Water Watch has been a national leader in the movement to ban fracking. They were the first national group to call for a ban on fracking everywhere, and they’ve been working with communities all across the country to pass local bans, and do the hard work to hold elected officials accountable in order to keep our drinking water safe from this dangerous practice.

Art and music play a vital role in building and strengthening social change movements, and “Buy This Fracking Album” will follow in that tradition with your support! There are more than 20 artists, and hundreds of others involved in this project who all believe in this cause and want to help get the message out through our music, but we need your help to get this project into the world.

Can you help amplify the work for a national ban on fracking by supporting this new music project?

In addition to my song, this album includes music from artists including:

-Pete Seeger
-Natalie Merchant
-Michael Franti
-John Butler Trio
-Rusted Root
-DJ Logic and friends
-Josh Fox (“Gasland”)
-Indigo Girls
-Anti Flag
-Marco Benevento
-Tom Chapin
-Meshell Ndegeocello and many more!

All of the songs have been donated, and any proceeds from the sale of the album will go to groups working for a ban on fracking. However, without your support this album might not make it into the world.

We still need to raise about $40,000 to produce the album, manufacture it, and get the word out to the world. If you can help chip in today, you’ll be one of the first to receive the album, and help build the movement to ban fracking. Different donation amounts give you different incentives. I am not only chipping in my music, but also a couple of guitars signed by me, personalized to YOU! Check it out!

Can you chip in today to help get this album out and build the movement to ban fracking?

Thank you for your support.

In solidarity,

Bonnie Raitt
Musician/Activist

March 20th, 2015

Ten Ways to Protect the Human Right to Water on World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo and Ryanne Waters

“Water is a commons, a public trust, and a human right.” — Maude Barlow

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

Water is an essential common resource that nobody, and no thing, can live without. But around the world, even here in the United States, the human right to safe, clean, affordable water is under great threat; a global water crisis is looming, and in some places, has already begun.

Here are ten ways you can protect the human right to water and promote sustainable water management on World Water Day. Let’s dive in.

1. Join Tap-a-palooza! Mobilize your college campus to kick the bottled water habit and take back the tap.

The commodification of water by the beverage industry is a huge con. Research shows that in the United States, bottled water is not safer than tap water and it only serves to perpetuate our planet’s plastic bottle waste problem. When corporations like Nestlé commoditize what many consider to be a human right, communities lose out and executives fatten their wallets. If you’re a student, encourage reusable water bottle use by pledging to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on your college campus.

TBTT

2. Say “no” to international water privatization schemes; oppose fast track of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The United States and the European Union are secretly negotiating a deal that would make it easier for the world’s biggest corporations to privatize our public water systems. And when private companies buy out public water systems, community members often experience degraded service at a higher price. Opposing fast track would make it harder for Congress to pass terrible trade deals like the TTIP.  Tell your member of Congress to oppose fast track today.

Fast Track

3. Support the campaign to stop water privatization in Lagos, Nigeria on twitter.

The city of Lagos, Nigeria is in great need of water supply and infrastructure improvements. But research shows that private ownership of municipal water systems does not benefit the community and often results in poor service at an unjust rate. 180 cities in 35 countries have fought hard to “re-municipalize” their water systems because of these failures. Lagos should not have to go down the same path. Tweet your support Tweet: I stand with Lagos, Nigeria. NO to water privatization! #OurWaterOurRight #Right2Water @followlasg @tundefashola for public water to the Lagos state government (@followlasg) and the governor (@tundefashola) by using the hashtag #OurWaterOurRight and #Right2Water.

LagosShareFB_we

4. Write to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the bill to ban fracking on public lands.

Did you know that our national forests and land surrounding our national parks are being fracked? Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and associated activities such as wastewater injection can contaminate nearby rivers and streams that feed these treasured places – their vegetation and wildlife. Stopping fracking on public lands will bring us one step closer to stopping fracking, and protecting water, everywhere. Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the bill.

PublicLands

5. Sign this emergency petition to immediately stop fracking in California.

According to NASA, California has only one year of water left. But did you hear that oil and gas industry regulators in California recently admitted that they’ve failed to protect the state’s precious water supply from toxic contamination? Regulatory systems like these are unacceptable. Join us in calling on Governor Brown to issue an immediate emergency moratorium on fracking in California.

California

6. Urge the Ohio Legislature to protect the Great Lakes from toxic algae blooms.

Industrial agriculture is threatening Lake Erie. Last summer, a huge algae bloom left half a million people in Toledo, Ohio without water. The state legislature is trying to address the problem, but their bill falls short of real, meaningful agricultural reform. Tell them to toughen up and protect the Great Lakes from factory farms!

Toledo Algae

7. Demand that authorities in Detroit restore affordable water service.

Detroit’s water is simply unaffordable, and thousands of residents have had theirs shut off as a result. The United Nations recently visited Detroit to investigate the water shut offs and found that they violate the human right to water. Protect public health and the human right to water by urging officials in Detroit to restore water service under a water affordability plan.

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8. Educate yourself and your friends on the global water crisis by reading Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow.

Maude Barlow is a water justice warrior. The latest in her best-selling series, Blue Future exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. It lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis and details the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

Maude_Barlow

 

9. Keep an eye out for a pre-screening of the film Dear President Obama, Americans Against Fracking In One Voice from Jon Bowermaster.

In this film, Bowermaster takes a national look at the issue of fracking and the threats it poses to water quality and public health. The film profiles the victims of fracking across the U.S., checks in with experts on the topic, and takes a look at alternative energy sources gaining traction around the globe.

DearPresidentObama

10. Stay up to date on global water issues and learn how you can get involved by signing up here.

Whether by banning fracking, stopping terrible trade deals, promoting public ownership of water systems or protecting waterways from agricultural pollution, Food & Water Watch is working with communities to hold the industries that threaten the right to safe, clean, affordable water accountable.

IMG_3406

Update, March 22: Check out Maude Barlow’s World Water Day post about how to address the world water crisis.

March 4th, 2015

Two Huge Stories on Fracking You Probably Missed This Week

By Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah_Hauter_BlogThumbIt seems that the fracking industry’s biggest concern is keeping their operations secret. Whether they’re talking about the chemicals in their frac fluid, how they pay (or don’t pay) royalties to landowners, or even whether doctors can tell their patients what they’re treating, industry representatives have pushed to keep their secrets. The industry has been pretty good at keeping people in the dark.

But two recent disclosures have shed some light on how the industry manages to obscure the details of its operations. On Tuesday, Mike Soraghan at EnergyWire broke the news that scientists in Oklahoma knew five years ago that the state’s recent unprecedented swarms of earthquakes were probably due to oil and gas operations. (We confirmed with Mike that he had uncovered these emails after pursuing an Open Records Act request in Oklahoma. Previously, he had analyzed federal earthquake data to break the news that Oklahoma had more earthquakes than California in 2014.)

According to EnergyWire, when Austin Holland, a seismologist from the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) based at the University of Oklahoma, raised the issue, he was asked to meet with the president of the university and “concerned” oil and gas industry officials (including with Mitt Romney’s campaign advisor on energy issues, Harold Hamm, who has donated over $30 million to the school.)

Since that meeting, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and OGS have butted heads over the link between oil and gas activities and earthquakes, with OGS pushing back against the idea that Big Oil and Gas is to blame. Bob Jackman, a petroleum geologist, says that when he asked Holland about the earthquakes, Holland replied, “You don’t understand – Harold Hamm and others will not allow me to say certain things.” Holland disputed this, but did not offer a corrected statement to EnergyWire.

Industry influence with national implications

In related news, through an open records request, Greenpeace received thousands of pages of correspondence between the EPA and industry participants in its fracking study. Sharon Kelley at DeSmogBlog and Neela Banerjee at Inside Climate News combed through the documents and pulled hundreds of pages of the more revealing finds.

Significantly, the documents include comments by Chesapeake Energy on the EPA’s study plans in which the company asks it to narrow its focus to only the specific step in which fracking fluids are injected, without allowing it to test conditions during the drilling and cementing of the well before those frac fluid injections. The EPA agreed to only install monitoring wells after Chesapeake’s wells were drilled.

Chesapeake also asked to be involved in reviewing contractors and field data and tried to influence testing methods. The records also include a list of Range Resources’ demands in order to cooperate with the agency, including access to documents, copies of recordings and photos and a stipulation that EPA employees be “identified in advance” and accompanied by a Range escort at all times.

These revelations go along with what we already knew happened in Parker County, Texas, where the EPA abruptly closed an investigation into groundwater contamination, despite evidence that nearby fracking operations were to blame. As it turns out, Range, the company accused of contaminating water supplies, threatened to pull out of the agency’s national study if it kept investigating.

Our report The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking raises questions about the EPA’s ongoing study of the potential impacts of fracking on water resources. Rather than require participation, the agency has done nothing but bend over backwards, pleading with industry to share its information. Not surprisingly, this hasn’t worked.

A constant refrain from the oil and gas industry and supporters is that state regulation of fracking is adequate and federal regulations are unnecessary. In reality, they’re trying to undermine regulation at every level of government. Industry has risen to the challenge of shaping the science in the EPA’s study

The importance of media watchdogs

The industry’s pressure on scientists has long-term and wide-ranging effects: it hampers public understanding, gives cover to fracking-friendly politicians, and inhibits further scientific study, both at universities reliant on industry funding and at government agencies reliant on industry participation for data. Public Accountability Initiative’s recent report shows that the industry is using flawed research to promote fracking as safe—research that PAI says is “industry-tied and lacking in scientific rigor.”

EnergyWire, a subscription-based news wire geared at the energy policy community, De Smog Blog and Inside Climate News have done a great job of breaking or reporting news around the dangers of fracking. Here’s hoping that more mainstream news organizations will conduct investigative reporting on these conflicts of interest to clear the fog created by industry misinformation. With the oil and gas industry spending tens of millions every year in public relations and advertising, media watchdogs are more important than ever.

February 25th, 2015

Governor Christie Sells Off New Jersey to the Highest Bidder

By Jim Walsh

It was Hurricane Sandy, the disastrous “super storm,” that thrust Governor Christie on to the national stage as a supposedly straight-talking hero of the common man. But the truth can’t hide forever. Sooner or later, Americans will come to realize what many of us in New Jersey have known all along: Christie is selling New Jersey off to the highest bidder, at the expense of hardworking families and our environment.

While Christie’s recent gaffs and scandals have been good fodder for late-night television comedians, behind these missteps is a governor tied to corporate interests that he hopes will fund his national political ambitions. It seems he’ll do just about anything to put those corporations ahead of regular people.

Early in his first term, Governor Christie created a privatization task force, creating a virtual road map for transferring billions of dollars in public assets to private profit driven companies. And throughout his tenure as governor, Christie has pushed to privatize public television, parts of the New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway, public parks, inspectors, and now our water.

Governor Christie just signed a bill that will open the floodgates for water system privatization in New Jersey. The bill removes an important requirement that communities have the right to vote on any water privatization plan and the rate details associated with it. The elimination of these important consumer protections are a dream come true to corporate water giants like American Water, which just donated $50,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association when Governor Christie was the chair.

Governor Christie used this his position as Governor’s Association chair to raise money and build his political presence and influence. But far more sinister is Governor Christie’s “gifts from friends” program. The program was enacted when Christie signed an executive order allowing the New Jersey governor (and only the governor) to accept large gifts from personal friends.

One of Christie’s personal friends seems to be Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who gifted Christie a $30,000 trip to a Cowboys playoff game. What folks may not know is that Jerry Jones amassed a fortune as on oil and gas mogul. This is concerning, considering that Christie recently refused to sign two bills that would have banned fracking and fracking waste in the state. At the same time he supported billions of dollars in ratepayer subsidies for the construction of fracked gas power plants in New Jersey, and a massive fracked gas pipeline through the Pinelands, a environmentally-protected area that preserves a 12 trillion-gallon fresh water aquifer in southern New Jersey.

Speaking of southern New Jersey, Christie has recently appointed an emergency fiscal manager for Atlantic City, a community on the brink of financial collapse due to long-term neglect and the downturn in Jersey’s casino industry. Instead of offering support, he appoints Kevyn Orr as the emergency manager. Kevyn Orr is the same person who, while serving as the emergency manager for Detroit, sought to solve Detroit’s financial struggles by recommending a fire sale of public assets, including their public water.

Governor Christie’s “gifts from friends” program has also garnered contributions from the King of Jordan and Sheldon G. Adelson, a wealthy casino owner. One can wonder exactly how much it costs to buy the governor’s friendship, but what is clear is that being “friends” with Christie comes with some fairly lucrative benefits.

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