One woman's courageous stand against fracking and world's most powerful industry The judge granted Ernst the right to sue the oil and gas co. for negligence.|
Book Review:Bamberger, Michelle, and Robert Oswald. The Real Cost of Fracking: How America's Shale Gas Boom is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food. Boston: Beacon Press, 2014.
This was a heartbreaking book to read, but essential. It tells the stories of American families accosted--really invaded--by multinational corporations who are uninterested in human beings or morals and with no allegiance to our country. They poison the environment, in the process making people sick, their animals and pets sick, and polluting our food supply. Frequently, they end up killing people and/or animals.
"We learned that our land could be drilled under and the gas extracted without our consent... as long as a gas company owns leases on at least a certain percentage of the land (in New York, it is 60 percent) inside a certain amount of space (typically, one square mile), gas can be extracted from properties within that area even if the company does not have a lease on that land" (page 1).
These companies are mendacious, greedy, incompetent, wasteful, negligent, invasive, destructive, irresponsible, and have no respect for people or the law. Their workers sometimes steal tools and other things from the people on whose land they are drilling.
On top of that, they are using millions of gallons of our water per drilling site, mixing it with toxic chemicals, and pumping it underground, sometimes for miles, to "frack," or crack open, shale in order to extract gas. In the process often releasing even more toxic and sometimes radioactive materials. All the leftover trash water is stored on the surface, or used to water fields of vegetables, or used to water down road surfaces. As this water evaporates, the toxins are released into the air we breathe.
No federal or state agency seems interested in controlling these companies or testing the environment to find out what is being done to our country. It is shameless exploitation at the cost of the environment and those of us who live in it.
Image is from KCET article on what fracking is doing to South Texas [see below]
What is Fracking Doing to S. Texas "You can't believe the flood of money that's pouring into San Antonio!" That's Steve talking, a close friend and an accountant with his finger on the financial pulse of the nation's seventh largest city. At a time when many other communities are struggling to make ends meet, the Alamo City seems flush. The source of this new pelf lies a couple of hours to its south, down I-35 and US 281, deep in the brush country of south Texas. To be more precise, its origins lie thousands of feet below the rolling coastal plain, in the gas-and-oil deposits locked in the Eagle Ford Shale formation; this seam runs beneath more than 20 counties that stretch from the Rio Grande Valley north and east into central Texas.
Even in distant San Antonio, which has become the play's service hub for finance, information technology, infrastructure and transportation. Steve laughed: "Just try renting a truck in town - you can't do it."
now-inflated prices for food, clothing and lodging
This dynamic system is earning record profits for energy companies like ConocoPhillips and Chesapeake Energy, and service-giant Halliburton
But there is an immediate cost to that gain, as south Texans are beginning to realize: In a region that does not get a lot of precipitation, and whose rivers are more dry than wet, the extensive pumping of local aquifers to be injected into the thousands of hydro-fracking wells are or will soon dot the arid landscape is creating a problem for generations to come.
It is not simply that a single, high-volume injection well can use astonishing amounts of water; or that this sudden rate of pumping - multiplied by the thousands - will be almost impossible to replace given how little rain sweeps over this flat, sandy terrain. Added to these dilemmas is another: This extracted water is laced with chemicals, a toxicity that is difficult to wash out; in some cases disposed of as if it was hazardous waste. Once it's gone, it is gone.
Start with the rapid pumping out of the Carrizo Aquifer, and then couple that with a multi-year, crippling drought: Are south Texas' ranching days numbered? That's what's worrying Hugh, and led him to push back politically. "I have tried to marshal support for limiting the amount of water that can be extracted from the Carrizo," he wrote me recently, but with little success. "Money is being thrown around like there is no tomorrow, which there certainly will not be if this keeps up."
Yet the local agency charged with regulating water resources so far has failed to uphold its mission: "our ground water conservation district is so backward that they are still focusing on rain enhancement through cloud seeding. Last month I hired a hydrologist to come down and do a presentation that I hoped would lead to a one-day public workshop/symposium. The board turned it down because they said they did not want to spend taxpayer money on something that no one would attend."
Local governments across the country have exhibited the same puzzling resistance to protect the public's health and welfare, from California and Colorado to Pennsylvania and West Virginia; our future water supplies may have a limited future, a hidden cost we are only beginning to appreciate.
There are several small, hopeful signs. On February 1, a new law takes effect in Texas: Frackers will be required to identify the specific chemicals used in their injection processes, and they will also have to disclose the exact amount of water they pump. As reported in the New York Times, the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association indicates that fracking wells may use upwards of five million gallons over a three-to-five day span; and at that rate by 2020 the state's rural counties will be water-stressed. A new website will monitor this new data - fracfocus.org - and if successful it might alter Texas' deplorable reputation for holding energy companies accountable. For up until now, says Mark A. Engle, a USGS geologist, Texas has ranked "pretty much dead last of any state I've worked with for keeping track of that sort of data."
Another potential bright spot is the use of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a substitute for water as a fracking agent. "My understanding is that there is no danger of cross contamination with LPG and that the recoverability is enhanced also," Fitzsimmons notes, and then pauses: "the downside is that it is like having an atom bomb in your backyard."
What is hydraulic fracturing?"Hydraulic fracturing is an oil and natural gas production technique that involves the injection of millions of gallons of water, plus chemicals and sand, underground at very high pressure in order to create fractures in the underlying geology to allow natural gas to escape. The sand is used to keep the fractures open and allow oil or gas to flow more efficiently. Hydraulic fracturing is commonly used in many types of geologic formations such as coalbeds, shale plays, and previously-drilled wells to further stimulate production...
"Hundreds of different types of chemicals are used in fracturing operations, many of which can cause serious health problems—some are also known carcinogens.
"After hydraulic fracturing takes place, both the waste fluid that is brought back to the surface as "flowback" as well as the fluids that remain underground can contain toxic substances that may come from the fracturing fluids. In addition, hydraulic fracturing can release hazardous substances that are naturally occurring into the environment, such as arsenic, mercury, and naturally-occurring radioactive materials (NORMs).
"All of these substances present risks to underground sources of drinking water and need to be regulated properly, especially because each well may be hydraulically fractured as many as 15 times.
(from Hydraulic Fracturing by EarthWorks.
Texas and Fracking As of March 2012 Texas had listed nearly 6,000 oil and gas fracking wells on FracFocus, an industry fracking disclosure site. The Texas list was by far the most of any state in the country.
FrackSwarm The purpose of FrackSwarm is to create a collaborative information clearinghouse for the worldwide citizens’ movement to address the impacts of fracking and move to cleaner sources of energy. Containing a growing number of articles on fracking-
Groups Urge Investigation of EPA Actions in Texas Water Contamination Case"On February 11, 2013 more than 80 organizations from 12 states and a New York State Senator called on the inspector general of the EPA to investigate a decision to drop legal action against a drilling company despite evidence that it had polluted residents’ well water near Fort Worth, Texas.
"In the joint press release, the groups stated, "The organizations sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., asking him to broaden an ongoing investigation of a case that made national news last year when the EPA dropped an enforcement action against Range Resources Ltd. after earlier invoking rare emergency authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act. New York State Senator Tony Avella is sending a similar letter later today. Elkins began investigating the case after six U.S. senators asked him last June to determine whether EPA had followed proper procedures." Citizen groups." (From FrackSwarm.
Oil & Gas Accountability Project The Frack Pack is one of our highest federal priorities.
Frack Pack: Close Loopholes for Polluters The Frack Pack, five bills recently introduced in Congress, would finally force the oil and gas industry to follow many of the same environmental laws as other industries and help protect our clean air and clean water.
Hydraulic Fracturing and the FRAC Act The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act) was introduced in March 2011 in both the United States House (H.R. 1084) and Senate (S. 587). The bill has two purposes: To require companies to disclose the chemicals injected underground, and To eliminate the exemption of hydraulic fracturing operations from regulation under the federal the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The FRAC Act also ensures that medical professionals can access information about the chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids if an individual has been harmed and needs medical care – which is not now the case."
Colby Glass, MLIS