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August 27th, 2012

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

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

By Wenonah Hauter

Updated 9/2/12*

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

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

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

Maybe it’s time to redefine exactly what protecting the environment means. People are ready to fight for what they really want. They don’t want to settle for some weak compromise that was negotiated without a strong fight.

And this time, EDF has met their match. Grassroots activists in communities facing fracking are not beholden to corporations or conservative foundations for funding. They’re tired of the same old game where national green groups undermine their work. Fractivists will never stand still and allow EDF or any other group to come into their state with weak “model legislation” that is simply an industry proposal in disguise.

This is about our children and grandchildren’s future. Fracked gas is no solution to climate change. Cornell University found that methane emissions from shale gas drilling are at least 30 percent higher than those from conventional gas, and may be just as severe as coal. There is absolutely no evidence that shale gas will improve the outlook for the ongoing crisis of global warming. A better strategy is to move away from fossil fuels altogether—not to lock us in to a future dependent on natural gas.

This is especially true since the oil and gas industry is misusing our water supplies at a time when we face increasing droughts that are also associated with climate change. I recently attended an industry conference—the first “summit” of the oil, gas and water industry. Some big numbers about the ongoing use of water resources were exposed at this corporate shindig. An official from Aquatech BV said that 2.4 billion gallons of produced water (i.e. polluted water) are generated from oil and gas operations in the U.S. each day, and in the rest of the world, another 5.7 billion gallons of produced water are generated each day — adding up to a total daily volume of 8.1 billion gallons of polluted water. This is enough water to cover the entire U.S. with polluted water and it’s enough to fill up the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S., every six years. The volume of produced water is increasing at a rate of 8 percent annually according to an official at GE Power.

Further, it seems like almost every week a new study comes out about the dangers of fracking. Stony Brook University published an article in the journal Risk Analysis this month that found substantial water pollution risks to rivers and other waterways from the disposal of fracking wastewater. A University of Texas seismologist tracked earthquakes in the Barnett Shale in Texas and found a correlation between the disposal of fracking wastewater in underground injection wells and small earthquake activity. The research will be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month.

The truth is that fracking is no way to address climate change. Instead, the rapid expansion of the drilling process has brought rampant environmental and economic problems to rural communities. Accidents and leaks have polluted rivers, streams and drinking water supplies. Regions peppered with drilling rigs have high levels of smog as well as other airborne pollutants, including potential carcinogens. Rural communities face an onslaught of heavy truck traffic—often laden with dangerous chemicals used in drilling—and declining property values. The “bridge fuel” of fracking could well be a bridge to nowhere.

My advice to EDF is to return the money. They will be further discredited in the environmental movement if they pursue this strategy. And eventually, as more people catch on, they will be discredited among not only policymakers and the media, but their membership too.

* This blog has been updated with the correct measurement regarding the amount of water the oil and gas industry pollutes each day in the U.S.: 2.4 billion gallons, not trillion.

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

  1. Michele Papai says:

    WE thank you for writing this. Many here in Athens County Ohio are trying to educate, advocate and challenge the powers at be. Please keep writing and challenging!

  2. Bill Wolfe says:

    Fracking can not be regulated effectively. Land use, cumulative impacts, long timeframes, scientific uncertainty, inability to monitor, and inherent risks make it impossible to regulate.

    EDF is basically a consulting firm

    Here is more evidence of promotion of gas industry agenda: EDF’s Mark Brownstein is speaking at this Jan 2013 energy industry convention:

    Natural Gas: a clean, low carbon alternative?

    http://web.mail.comcast.net/zimbra/mail?app=mail#6

  3. sane energy says:

    EDF got money from Bloomberg because they have been the primary mouthpiece advocating the conversion of NYC boilers from oil to gas, under the pretext of making the city’s air quality better. They have ignored the fact that increasing the use of gas will increase the demand for fracking; they have ignored the fact that there are better alternatives to replacing #4 & 6 oils than gas, such as biodiesels and renewables; they have ignored the fact that converting to gas costs buildings hundreds of thousands of dollars, while converting to #2 oil costs around $10,000 and creates less particulate matter than gas.

    Bloomberg meanwhile pushes for major new gas pipes like the Spectra line into the west village and the Rockaway Lateral, through reclaimed wildlife areas. Bloomberg conveniently gifted the High Line park with $20 million just as the Spectra pipeline was going through a public comment period last summer. The High Line Park has declined to criticize the pipeline, even though it sits within the potential blast radius of the pipeline, along with it’s new neighbor, the Whitney museum. The Bloomberg gift program seems specially designed to advance his agenda of creating a major gas infrastructure build out in NYC, and his stated desire to frack upstate New York (outside the city’s watershed) to supply that gas.

  4. Johanna harman says:

    Thanks. I will keep an eye out for them and disregard whatever they have to say. Can’t stand that co-optation stuff.

  5. Dory Hippauf says:

    Environmental Defense Fund lobbying firm is K&L Gates, LLP

    K&L lobbyists which represent EDF, also represent ga/oil companies.

    Carnevale, Amy Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Carnevale, Amy K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Carnevale, Amy NextEnergy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Connor, Darrel Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Connor, Darrel K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Erskine, Jack M Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Erskine, Jack M K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Garvie, Pamela Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Garvie, Pamela K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Gorton, Slade Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Gorton, Slade K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Gorton, Slade Sapphire Energy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    McGlynn, Sean Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    McGlynn, Sean K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Peckingpaugh, Timothy “Tim” Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Peckingpaugh, Timothy “Tim” K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Peckingpaugh, Timothy “Tim” NextEnergy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Peckingpaugh, Timothy “Tim” Peabody Energy Corp Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Peckingpaugh, Timothy “Tim” Sapphire Energy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Potter, Dennis Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Potter, Dennis K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Potter, Dennis Sapphire Energy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Rouvelas, Emmanuel Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Rouvelas, Emmanuel K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Sartucci, James A Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Sartucci, James A K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Sartucci, James A Sprague Energy Corporation Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    See, Chad Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    See, Chad K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    See, Chad NextEnergy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    See, Chad Sapphire Energy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Stephens, W Dennis Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Stephens, W Dennis K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Stephens, W Dennis Sapphire Energy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Valentine, Steven Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Valentine, Steven K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Valentine, Steven Sapphire Energy Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

    Wissmann, Yvette Environmental Defense Fund Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011
    Wissmann, Yvette K&L Gates, LLP Lobbyist http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmlbs.php?id=D000000766&year=2011

  6. Kim Feil says:

    EDF if you can guarantee that the casings will not rot or fail and that the injection wells will not migrate (which has already happened), then these other issues on regulations is a good starting point because we’ve had reckless drilling in Arlington TX for at least 5 yrs now. 1) we did not use electric rigs and spewed diesel into neighborhoods and sickened folks, 2) we broke our pathetic 600 ft setback rules and continue to see how close we can drill near people 3) we let the industry help write our gas drilling ordinance obviously because there are a) no regulations to use best avail emission control technologies like “frack sacks” to catch the airborne clouds of silica dust that can cause permanent lung damage, b) no mandates to use scrubbers on the open hatch flowback tanks, c) no required Green Completions, d) no strategic rule to have pipeline in place BEFORE FRACKING so that fluids can fester under the ground awaiting flowback for months which has sickened folks e) no choke down rules for minerals management that make $ sense during low NG prices and high supply. Yes…reckless drilling is a reality here! We have had about a dozen emission events on some of our 55 padsites in a 99 sq mile area.

  7. Robert Nast says:

    Dear FWW,
    Its time to stop assuaging everyone’s environmental concience with donations telling them they can get actually get Fracking banned-just give me the money. Time for us all to wake up and smell the coffee. The EDF has. I’m trying with my CA Robin Hood Tax Initiative; See http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2012/120304.aspx .

    Current situation: The big oil corporations are starting to ramp up the use of Fracking to drill for tight oil in California. With oil prices of around $100/barrel, big profits are waiting with no severance taxes to pay. California is the only major oil producing state that does not have a severance tax! Good news, California has 64% of the US’s tight oil reserves.
    Bad news, widespread Fracking for tight oil (unless properly regulated) pollutes underground water supplies from carcinogenic chemicals (29) and radioactive waste. In addition, the disposal of Fracking wastewater in deep injection wells causes man made earthquakes.
    This scenario spells an environmental disaster for earthquake prone and water challenged California with its two aging nuclear reactors; one of which sits on a known fault. While FWW is demanding a ban-the Gas and Oil corps are laughing.

    The California Fracking oversight regulations and number of well inspectors (1 for every 737 active wells) are dangerously inadequate. The oil companies have essentially “bought off” the California Legislature, who is either unwilling or unable to pass even basic Fracking oversight regulations for over three years (just like a balanced budget).
    Respectfully submitted,
    Bob Nast

    • Brian says:

      Bob,

      The oil companies are also laughing at anyone, such as EDF, who has tried to “come to the table” seeking more regulation. If there is no difference, why go into these discussions having already compromised?

      In Ohio, EDF supported ALEC based legislation that was written to protect chemical disclosure and gag doctors. EDF went to the table hoping to close some of the gaps but walked away empty handed. Now, Ohio has to hear all of the time that “environmental groups were brought into discussions,” and that “Ohio has the most stringent regulations in the country.” Actually – no, we weren’t actually invited, and no, these are not regulations; they are allowances and subsidies.

      Fracking will never be safe. Beyond the undeniable human health and environmental costs, it will only postpone the inevitable transition to safe renewable energy, weaken state renewable portfolio standards, and add almost insurmountable investment risk for clean energy companies who would otherwise actually create safe, sustainable jobs and permanently move us towards energy independence.

      These same kind of disagreements are what led to the current “regulations” of mountaintop removal mining. EDF’s approach will give us no substantive gain and leave us holding the bag, trying to undo almost irreversible damage for decades.

      Promoting safe fracking is also a slap in the face to those unfortunate folks on the front lines. Just ask the folks (that haven’t been bought out or forced to sign non-disclosures)in the drilling fields if fracking will ever be safe. It’s enough that they have to fight fracking companies, now they have to fight EDF too.

      Kudos to FWW for taking the moral high road. I hope the low road gets flooded with slickwater.

      • Maggie Henry says:

        I am one of unfortunates forced to endure this developing diaster. Come see for yourself waht a once ag area looks like while undergoing this transformation. Cryogenics plant a mile down the road in Ohio, gas well 4100 ft from my farm, pipelines and markers EVERYWHERE, NG energy plant permit granted 2.5 miles away. So much for my farm, my life’s work raising the purest food possible, a century of paying taxes. I have nothing left except a puddle of tears!

  8. “Bloomberg cited the health hazards associated with coal and dismissed the solar and wind industries as ‘not viable.’ ” … Unless, of course you are Germany or Saudi Arabia which has just invested $200 billion in solar.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2012/08/29/bloomberg-speaking-out-in-support-of-fracking/

  9. Great review and break down of the candy coated $6mil donation!
    Here’s a thought trail – we seem to keep talking about creating good regulations and monitoring. OK … that is a statement that something is not inherently safe and needs to be adjusted in order to operate within rules.
    OK… so when the rules are broken “we” the govt organizations are going to fine “you” the companies.
    OK then… the citizens still lose! Once pollution and contamination occur from chemicals in fracking and water/air contamination – there is no safe cleanup! And there is still a storage problem.

    SO: The only solution to create good regulation is to ban fracking as it currently exists.

  10. How about researching who EDF's other big contributors are? Bet that's interesting. says:

    How about researching who EDF’d other big contributors are? Bet that’s interesting.

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