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Food Safety News
April 19th, 2011

Experts Denounce “Pickens Plan to Frack America”

Food & Water Watch, WaterDefense, Democracy for America and Scientists Warn Against U.S. Investment in Fracking

Washington, D.C.—As T. Boone Pickens announces new plans to increase BP Capital’s investments in the natural gas sector today at a convening at the National Press Club, scientists and opponents of shale gas drilling (or “fracking”) held a conference call to educate members of the media about the risks associated with the process and why it should not be considered a bridge from fossil fuels. Both developments anticipate Congress’ upcoming consideration of the NAT GAS Act (H.R. 1380), which would funnel $5 billion in subsidies to the natural gas industry, while making the U.S. dependent on shale gas drilling for a generation to come.

In the decade from 1998 to 2008, gas from unconventional sources grew from 28 percent to 46 percent of the total U.S. production, with the biggest increase coming from shale. According to the energy consulting group IHS CERA, shale gas increased from 1 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply between 2000 and 2010. The EIA Annual Energy Outlook expects shale gas to comprise the largest portion of the domestic natural gas industry’s projected growth in the next two decades.

Now as pressure mounts to end U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, especially from foreign sources, many are touting shale gas as a “game changer” for the U.S. natural gas market. Many high profile investors such as T. Boone Pickens are also hoping to cash in on the rush to develop shale gas resources.

“T. Boone Pickens is just an oil baron turned gas baron trying to game the system into subsidizing his business interests,” said Gasland Director Josh Fox. “His plan does nothing to reduce emissions and would push unregulated toxic gas drilling into overdrive, further contaminating huge areas of the United States. It won’t work, not just because it is costly and toxic, but because there are literally millions of Americans living in the drill zones in 34 states who are not willing to have their health, water and air put at risk by drilling.”

Shale gas production has been shown to contaminate drinking water resources. To date, there have been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near drilling sites around the country.

“Fracking is no way to end our dependence on foreign oil,” said Food & Water Watch Water Policy Director Emily Wurth. “It is a toxic, poorly regulated industry that endangers vital water resources and public health. The federal government needs to protect consumer and environmental interests and impose a nationwide ban on fracking.”

New findings from Cornell University Professor Robert Howarth show that methane emissions from shale gas drilling are at least 30% higher than those from conventional gas, and may be just as severe as coal, highlighting yet another reason why the process is not a viable transition from fossil fuels, and why it may further exacerbate climate change problems.

“Shale gas is widely promoted as a clean fuel with lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal and other fossil fuels,” said Howarth. “Unfortunately, objective science fails to support that belief. When emissions of both methane and carbon dioxide are included, using the best available information, shale gas actually has a larger – or at least equally as large – greenhouse gas footprint than does coal. Industry has fought hard to keep their methane emissions a secret, and continues to sue the EPA in court to avoid reporting emissions. We urge industry to be more forthcoming with this information.”

Anthony Ingraffea, co-author of the Cornell study, added, “unconventional development of gas from shale is a major industrial activity producing large quantities of waste. Chemically different from those from conventional wells, they equate to a whole new industrial process whose impacts are not yet fully understood, and certainly not well regulated or enforced. No best practices currently exist for developing shale gas, nor have its full human health and environmental impacts been determined.”

Meanwhile, public resistance to shale gas drilling continues to mount. In New Jersey, Food & Water Watch and other groups are pressuring Governor Christie to ban the practice.

New York state instituted a moratorium on fracking late last year, and yesterday New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman threatened to sue the federal agencies on the Delaware River Basin Commission if they refuse to conduct a full environmental assessment on the impacts of fracking in the basin.

The Delaware River supplies drinking water to 15.6 million people, including residents of New York City and Philadelphia. Over 20,000 gas wells are planned for the region. Regulations that would permit fracking are expected to be finalized this summer.

A recording of the conference call is available here.

About WaterDefense: WaterDefense works to protect our water from the destruction of dirty fossil fuel industries by promoting clean energy policies and empowering people to protect their watersheds. Visit

About Democracy for America:
 Democracy for America is a people-powered Democratic Political Action Committee. With over one million members nationwide, DFA is a grassroots powerhouse working to change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.