There is so much going on in the world, it is hard to keep up. Especially in the US where the media often focuses on domestic issues (like the government shutdown or the debt cap) rather than larger stories happening overseas. This one caught my eye.
France’s highest court just upheld a challenge to the government’s 2011 policy to ban hydraulic fracturing for the recovery of shale gas (AKA fracking). France joins Bulgaria in a full ban, and there are restrictions in many other places (including Germany and the UK).
The US is going in the opposite direction. Fracking is permitted almost everywhere. There are a few US cities and counties, mostly in areas which don’t have much shale gas, which have banned the practice. Vermont is the only state to ban fracking in the US. And nationwide the practice of fracking is expanding, rather than shrinking, with California leading the way.
And i am confident things will change in the US. It might take a decade or two, but as the watertable gets more contaminated and more people get sick and sue, after some governor’s daughter has a terrible personal experience, more and more states will prohibit this practice. The oil company lawyers and PACs will keep fracking going for as long as they can. Every Republican administration will set things backwards, and each Democratic one will do nothing to make it better, there is simply too much money involved to fix this problem quickly.
But we will get there, in the US, eventually, perhaps even a total ban. And then the oil majors and other even less responsible corporations will move fracking operations to countries where there are even fewer controls than here.
On this one, i fear i don’t have an optimistic conclusion.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
When I first heard about fracking, I knew it was bad. I just didn’t understand much beyond that.
Then my friend Tom said something about getting payments from his parents’ land and a Natural Gas lease. Yes, it turns out, they have signed a lease with the natural gas company allowing fracking on their land. Last night I watched the rivetting documentary Gasland, which is essentially Tom’s story. Living on the beautiful piece of land he grew up in in PA, one day Josh Fox (creator of Gasland) got a gas lease form in the mail. Curious, he started asking questions. Talking to people. Collecting samples of people’s tap water. Travelling to other fracking sites in the west and midwest.
And the story slowly comes together. Turns out its really quite simple. Ten years ago, 1% of our natural gas came from fracking. Today its 30%.
This is largely because in 2005, then Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of natural gas drilling company Halliburton, got congress to exempt natural gas fracking from the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. The result was that fracking for natural gas expanded quickly, and that expansion has happened in an entirely unregulated, cowboy-like fashion.
So just what is fracking you may ask? Its pretty simple actually. Here’s a great basic definition from Don’t Frack with NY :
“Short for hydraulic fracturing— a drilling technique which involves injecting toxic chemicals, sand, and millions of gallons of water under high pressure directly into the ground to release natural gas in shale deposits. This mixture of toxins and sediment, along with any natural gas released, can leak to the surface and enter rivers and groundwater in the process.”
Doesn’t bode well for having clean, drinkable water from your tap.
This is one of those cases where if I really let myself be open to the facts of what is happening, and to the emotional experience of the people it is most impacting, I feel rage, overhwhelming sadness, and utter helplessness. And all I can see to do is try to stay open to the information that is coming at me so that when the opportunity arises I am able to take action.
Tom recently wrote the following about his family’s experience:
“My mom, dad and I have a lot to talk to about when it comes to the future and vision of our family’s property. The natural gas drilling has increased rapidly and soon we will know details about potential financial gains from the drilling. This is a confusing (whats the REAL cost of the drilling to the land, people and overall health?!) time for myself and my family as this process has taken about five years….It has been incredibly hard for me throughout this process due to my home in Pennsylvania always being “the safe place” to go home to and now with the drilling my home land has the potential of being physically harmful. This is incredibly hard to take. Its hard to believe this is happening to a place so serene, beautiful and close to my heart.”
[guest written by Kassia]