fracking | Food & Water Watch - Part 4
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Blog Posts: Fracking

May 12th, 2014

Oil and Gas Spills and BLM Ills: It’s Time for the People’s Lobby Week!

By Katherine Cirullo

On Monday, Mike Soraghan of E&E EnergyWire revealed that in 2013, the number of oil and gas related spills increased by 18 percent, despite the fact that the rate of drilling actually began to level off. In a similar vein, the Associated Press recently reported findings from the new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has failed to inspect a large number of high-risk oil and gas wells on pubic lands. Think regulations are enough to prevent fracking from affecting the environment and the health of American communities? Just in time for the People’s Lobby Week against fracking, it is imperative that you consider the facts and think again.

On one hand, data shows a major increase in oil and gas spills in the top 15 on-shore drilling states. In 2013 there were at least 7,662 spills, averaging slightly over 20 spills per day. The combined volume of spilled oil, fracking fluid, fracking wastewater and other substances surpassed 26 million gallons — that’s 26 million gallons of toxic substances more than our waterways and our communities should be forced to tolerate.

On the other hand, there is data showing grossly inadequate government oversight of oil and gas drilling. In a review of 14 states, the GAO reports findings that for wells drilled from 2009 to 2012, the BLM failed to conduct inspections on more than 2,100 of the 3,702 wells that it had specified as “high-priority” for preventing water contamination and other environmental damage. The BLM, the very agency that is supposed to preserve and protect our public lands (and act as a dependable source of federal oversight), just isn’t pulling through. Read the full article…

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May 9th, 2014

Field Notes: California Rising Up Against Fracking

Posing for a photo after Beverly Hills becomes the first California city to ban fracking, (left to right) Councilmember John A. Mirisch, Councilmember Nancy H. Krasne, Food & Water Watch volunteer Lauren Steiner, Mayor Lili Bosse, FWW Organizer Brenna Norton, Councilmember William W. Brien M.D., Vice Mayor Julian A. Gold M.D.

By Tia Lebherz and Brenna Norton

Since Tia’s blog last week about the campaign to ban fracking in Butte County and other places across California, the movement to ban fracking in the Golden State has experienced much momentum.  

This week, Beverly Hills became the first city in California to enact a ban on fracking and related well stimulation techniques. The ordinance also prohibits these activities from any site outside city limits that would drill and extract oil and gas underneath the city. The City Council first voted unanimously for a ban on April 21st (Earth Day), and on Tuesday night, the final vote put the ban into effect. Food & Water Watch worked closely with superstar fractivist Lauren Steiner on the effort, with the support of Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations.

“This is not a ‘not in my backyard issue’ – it should not be in anyone’s back yard,” said Councilmember John Mirsch. “But this issue goes beyond that. And we also need to think long-term even if our city is not a center of drilling. Injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals at high pressure into the earth can’t be good. Asbestos and smoking was once also considered safe. Fracking is not worth the risk.”

On the other side of L.A. County, on April 22, the City Council of Compton voted to place a moratorium on fracking to protect their community from the threat of Occidental Petroleum and other oil companies invading the community to drill for oil in the Dominguez Hill oil field. Occidental has been hinting about the possibility of drilling in Compton, since they face strong opposition in neighboring Carson to their proposal to drill over 200 new wells.

Santa Barbara County Water Guardians deliver 20,000 signatures to put a fracking ban on the county’s November ballot.

The fight to protect Carson is now in full swing. After the Carson City Council unanimously enacted a 45-day moratorium on all oil and gas development, last week the Council split on whether to extend the moratorium for another 10 months. Two councilmembers voted for the moratorium, two voted against it, and one member abstained. While the vote was disappointing, there are numerous ways to stop the project, and we will continue to work and support the community’s efforts to stopping the project and protecting their community.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles the City Attorney is now drafting a moratorium ordinance as directed by the City Council, which voted unanimously to advance the ordinance. It will return to the full L.A. City Council for a final vote to be ratified in the coming months.

In San Benito County, home of Pinnacles National Park, San Benito Rising successfully submitted over 4,000 signatures to bring a vote to ban fracking to the November ballot. And in Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians collected an impressive 20,000 petition signatures in an all-volunteer effort in under four weeks. The Water Guardians are now waiting to see whether the County Board of Supervisors will adopt the measure or place it on the November ballot for voter approval.

Finally, our friends at Frack-Free Butte County launched an indiegogo website complete with a fantastic video documenting their campaign. Stay tuned for more exciting updates in the near future!

May 1st, 2014

Butte County, California Inches Closer to a Fracking Ban

By Tia Lebherz 

The Butte County Board of Supervisors in California recently surprised everyone and took a bold step to ban fracking in their community.  That day, many, including some of the top oil and gas lobbyists in California, concentrated in Sacramento as SB1132, the California fracking moratorium bill, passed its first committee hurdle.  

Meanwhile, an hour north of Sacramento, our friends at Frack-Free Butte County were testifying at their Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Originally slated to speak to the Butte County Water Board’s recommendation to regulate the practice, this amazing group of grassroots activists laid out their case for why the Board needed to take action to truly protect the community. Rightfully so, the supervisors listened, and voted 4-1 to ban fracking. In doing so, Butte County is poised to become the first county in California, and the second in the nation to ban fracking.

Frack-Free Butte County has been building this campaign from the ground up over the past year. When I moved home to California last October, they were one of the first local groups I connected with. Their spirit and determination is contagious. Following the success of our friends in Colorado who recently passed five ballot measures to stop fracking, Frack-Free Butte County, along with San Benito Rising and the Santa Barbara Water Guardians, are all in the signature-collecting phase of their campaigns.  The San Benito campaign actually reached its signature goal in the first 14 days of its campaign, so it’s safe to say that it will ultimately surpass its goal. These grassroots, citizen led groups are taking on Big Oil and Gas right in their own communities. 

The victory in Butte County is part of slew of local victories across the nation to stop fracking. Time and again, we see the federal government push off taking action against fracking to the state and local level.  I like to think that on the local level, we see how democracy is meant to work. We see elected officials actually representing their constituents, not blinded and bound by Big Oil’s financial influence.  In the case of Butte County, the Board of Supervisors deserves much praise for stepping up to protect its community. 

Here in California, the movement is growing, and we’re giving the fracking industry a one-two punch. While local communities such as Carson and Los Angeles continue to stop fracking on the front lines, we’re putting tons of pressure on Governor Jerry Brown to stop fracking across the entire state. On the heels of the largest rally to stop fracking this state has ever seen, and with the momentum of a diverse coalition of residents, farmers, chefs and scientists in on this fight, I believe that California has a bright and sustainable future, and that together, we can ban fracking. 

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April 30th, 2014

Thank You Food & Water Watch Volunteers!

By Mark Schlosberg

At Food & Water Watch, we take on powerful interest groups to protect our food and water – big agribusiness and chemical companies, massive private water companies, and big oil and gas companies. We might not be able to match these corporations dollar for dollar, but due to the many wonderful volunteers who work with us, we are able to build winning campaigns.

As the Organizing Director at Food & Water Watch I have been fortunate enough to watch our volunteers truly make a difference – by helping out in our state offices, tabling at events and participating in phone banking opportunities. Many of our volunteers also end up leading campaigns and taking on larger organizing efforts – planning rallies, lobby visits and campaign strategy meetings. Leaders like these truly give us the ability to go toe-to-toe with powerful interest groups as we work to protect our essential resources 

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and we would like take a moment to thank all of the people who take time our of their day to help us out. Volunteers from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, California and all the way to Brussels, Belgium: you guys ROCK. And because words alone do not do your hard work justice, we created a special thank you message from some of our on-the-ground organizers. 

Food & Water Watch is made up of researchers, communicators, organizers and technological wizards, but an equally essential part of this organization and the work that we do are the many passionate and dedicated volunteers who, every day, build power in their communities. Whether you have petitioned, helped plan a local event, organized a rally or made calls to your state legislators – your efforts are critical to growing a movement to protect our food, water, planet and democracy. You inspire your communities and you inspire us. For all of this, we could not be more grateful! 

There is No “Right Way” to Frack

By Wenonah Hauter 

Back in 2012, I reported on the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) receiving $6 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies to advocate for fracking regulations. Therefore, yesterday’s New York Times op-ed by EDF President Fred Krupp and Michael Bloomberg, while jarring, wasn’t much of a surprise. 

Claiming there’s a safe way to frack is like claiming there’s a safe way to smoke, or a safe way to shoot whiskey before climbing behind the wheel of a car. When you consider the entire lifecycle of shale development, the notion is even laughable.  Read the full article…

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April 25th, 2014

California Oil and Gas Industry Promotes Itself

By Hugh MacMillan 

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), a trade group for oil companies, recently released a report on the economic footprint of the oil and gas industry in California. Not surprisingly, Oil and Gas in California: The Industry and its Economic Contribution in 2012, completely skews the picture on fracking, ignoring the social costs of this highly controversial process. 

The report frames a false choice – employment supported by the oil and gas industry or no employment at all. It exaggerates the economic effect of companies spending money to drill and frack, and it ignores the significant harm that fracking, acidizing, and even acid fracking impose on public health, communities, the environment and our climate, whether onshore, or just off the California coast.

Read the full article…

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April 24th, 2014

Protecting Public Lands for National Park Week

By Katherine Cirullo

The Maroon Bells tower over Maroon Lake, located in the
White River National Forest, Colorado.

Happy National Park Week, everyone! As a former resident of Colorado, this week reminds me of that sprightly time of year when my friends and I would lace up our hiking boots and head to a nearby national park or national forest to explore miles of peaceful trails, enjoy fresh air and just revel in our pristine surroundings. This year, I’m not celebrating Nationals Park Week by camping in the Rocky Mountains. But, I am spending it thinking of one of my favorite places in the Rockies – the White River National Forest – and how it is threatened by encroaching oil and gas development. In fact, much of the country’s public lands and recreation areas, which are managed by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are eyed for fracking. No matter where you are this National Park Week, join me in standing up for our nation’s public lands by telling President Obama to keep them frack-free.

Earlier this month, I caught wind that Colorado’s White River (which runs through the White River National Forest) was recently named one of America’s most endangered rivers due to oil and gas development. My jaw dropped. How could a place so beautiful and so rich with wildlife, history and untouched rural landscapes – a place that is supposed to be conserved – be given up for fracking? Read the full article…

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April 22nd, 2014

Make Your Voice Heard on Earth Day!

By Katherine Cirullo

I’ve loved Earth Day ever since I was in pre-school and digging in the dirt for worms wasn’t a ticket to time-out, but rather a planned educational activity. In middle school, Earth Day meant we got to clean up trash at the town park – a proud moment for a budding activist. But, the dirt days are long over and, as I’ve learned that control over essential, common resources is slipping from the fingertips of the public to the clutches of large corporations, I’ve realized that protecting the planet is no small task.

Earth Day was established 40 years ago not simply as a calendar reminder of how beautiful and precious our planet is, but as a call to action. In order to protect our natural resources and ensure a truly sustainable, healthy and safe environment now and for future generations, our actions need to be unified, targeting elected officials who hold power to influence policy changes. If there’s one threat to the health of the planet that is particularly ominous, it’s rapidly escalating fossil fuel development. That’s why today, Food & Water Watch presents to you the People’s Platform Against Fracking – hop on. Read the full article…

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April 17th, 2014

Railway Ruckus: Oil and Gas Development is Throwing American Farmers Off-Track

By Katherine Cirullo

Fracking affects our food. In fact, it affects our entire food system. The national fracking debate has remained somewhat quiet around this issue, but that’s all starting to change, and for good reason. Chefs who rely on fruits, vegetables and dairy from heavily-fracked states like California and Pennsylvania are becoming involved in campaigns to stop fracking from contaminating the water needed to grow our nation’s food. Ranchers are concerned that nearby fracking operations contaminate local water supplies, causing their livestock to fall ill. And now, farmers are publically speaking out about how the oil and gas industry is hindering them from transporting their crops and fueling America’s food supply.

In a hearing last Thursday, farmers revealed the recent oil boom in the Bakken Shale of North Dakota is pitting agriculture in the northern United States against the oil and gas industry as they compete for space on the rails. According to farmer testimonies, Big Oil and Gas seems to be winning, while some of our nation’s farmers (whose livelihoods depend on moving their commodities to buyers) are being thrown off the tracks.

At the hearing, 39 people from the agricultural industry (farmers, grain elevators, etc.) from states such as Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana complained to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) about rail shipping delays that have hindered the movement of crops. They claimed the railways serving the region (Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Canadian Pacific (CP)) are not fairly allocating railcar space between the agricultural industry and the oil and gas industry, choosing oil as the favorite. Favorite or not, the reality is that Big Oil is not fit for sharing. Read the full article…

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April 14th, 2014

Alabama: The Next Tar Sands Frontier?

By Alison K. Grass

Keep Alabama the BeautifulIf you’re like me, you probably have a special spot in your heart for your hometown and home state. I grew up in Alabama, in the countryside, in a house surrounded by several sprawling acres of trees, farmland and open space. Even though I now live hundreds of miles away, I still am protective of the people who live there, their health and the beautiful landscapes and natural wonders that coexist in the appropriately termed, “Alabama the Beautiful.”

So last year when I learned of a secretive plan to auction 43,000 acres of public land in the Talladega and Conecuh Nation Forests for potential fracking and drilling, I grew concerned and wanted to know more. Fortunately, public outcry delayed the sale of the land.

Now, an equally concerning development has come to my attention: Alabama may open up its northwestern Lawrence, Franklin and Colbert Counties to tar sand oil extraction, in order to become a “major oil-producing state.” MS Industries has already bought around 2,500 acres of land in Alabama counties.

Read the full article…

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