This past week was all about Fracking. My kids and I watched Gasland I and Gasland II and now I do not know which to be more upset about…Fracking or GMOS?!!
I highly encourage everyone to watch these two documentaries by Josh Fox. He is a simple guy armed with a camera whose home was threatened by Fracking. Determined to right a wrong, Josh Fox has morphed into very effective advocate, educator and expert on Fracking. Just like GMO foods, everyone is potentially effected by Fracking. If you think just because you do not have a natural gas well in your back yard, you have nothing to worry about…think again. Your land or your water supply could be next, if it is not effected already.
Here is the trailer from Gasland II:
And here is an amazing concise summary of Fracking and the issues pro and con.
A Summary of the Gasland Movies:
For those who do not understand Fracking, this is a definition from The Ohio Environmental Council:
“Hydraulic fracturing is the use of sand, water, and chemicals injected at high pressures to blast open shale rock and release the trapped gas inside. Horizontal drilling (also called “directional drilling”) is just like it sounds: after the well drill reaches a certain vertical depth in the ground, the well is then drilled horizontally.”
Going vertically is nothing new, but horizontal drilling is very new. According to many scientists and experts outside of the oil and gas industry (of course) this new type of drilling is exceedingly risky.
Gasland I explores the specifics of Fracking. Josh Fox introduces us to his home set in the woods by the Delaware River– the home he is desperately trying to protect. Like all his neighbors, he was offered $4000/acre for access to his land to drill and like many of his neighbors he said no and decided to take action. He tells the stories of those living close to the wells and what has happened to their drinking water and to their health.
He also briefs us on the politics. Did you know Fracking is exempt from both the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act? Did you know that one of the first things Dick Cheney did after he became VP and of course after being CEO of Haliburton, was get this massive loophole for Fracking passed in Congress? Did you know that all the thousands of trucks hauling gas, toxic waste water and supplies back and forth to the wells all have the same name on their doors…Haliburton?? Something smells fishy in the world of Fracking..oh excuse me, not fishy…gassy.
Try going to any community with wells in their backyards and the story is the same. Water that can be lit on fire. Streams with “hot tub” like jets percolating. Dead fish. Animals losing all their hair. People with no sense of smell or taste. Nosebleeds, rashes, headaches… Tanks leaking methane gas into the atmosphere. Toxicology reports coming back with 50 times EPA limits for benzene and 100s of other chemicals. Yes, hundreds. Independent testing has confirmed 596 toxic chemicals and possibly more. We would not know this otherwise, because as Fracking is exempt from Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act, the gas companies are not compelled to provide a list of chemicals they are using. So…they don’t!
If the effects of these chemicals were only limited to a narrow radius all would be fine, but if only things were simple. What the documentaries reveal are a host of problems. The cement casings of the pipes leak. One in 20 will leak. They are defective and with hundreds of thousands of wells and 1000s more to come, that is a lot of wells spewing toxic chemicals into streams, rivers etc.
Also, while some of the millions of gallons of toxic water used to break up the shale to release the gas stays down, most of it comes back up to the surface and is toxic waste. It needs to be disposed, but where? In another posting, I forewarned NYers that although Governor Cuomo has yet to allow Fracking, we are, however, the dumping ground for toxic waste coming from Pennsylvania wells. And as Josh Fox reports, some of our drinking water comes from the Delaware river. The toxic water coming out of the wells are seeping into these sources of clean water so not only are they potentially polluting the nearby communities, but major cities like Philadelphia, New York and Pittsburgh. As for California, I was shocked when watching Gasland II, Fox shows drilling in Central LA. Right in the heart of the city! LA water was bad enough already, but now this? And it is not only in LA, but all over California, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia. As Fox flies cross country, his camera pans the countryside showing wells everywhere dotting the landscape. BTW– his films focus on the wells in Colorado and OMG! Think about all that toxic well water swirling around in the flood waters. Losing one’s home is bad enough, but could their land now be uninhabitable from the unleashing of all the chemicals?! Just wondering…
Many argue Fracking provides clean fuel. That there is enough to make us energy independent. It will provide endless jobs. It is the answer to foreign oil. It is cheaper, cleaner etc. However, Fox conducts many interviews with scientists from institutions like Stanford and Cornell who talk about the many issues: earthquakes, water contamination and scarcity, and leakage.
Fracking uses methane and the release of the gas from wells and storage facilities is significant. According to the scientist from Cornell, the methane release–a key contributor to global warming, is more than all the exhaust fumes from a major city or a greater contaminant than good old fashion, but dirty coal. Second, pricing. It is cheap for now, but not for too long because ports for export are being built and soon United States natural gas that was meant for Americans will be fueling the world driving up prices. With the Chinese paying $16/gallon and the Europeans $9/gallon, our natural gas is very attractive and thus will be exceedingly profitable as an export.
The slogan NIMBY has been around for a long time. As I sit in my beautiful home, I am thankful my home is not near a natural gas area because if it was, I would be selling. This is not a problem limited to those living in the countryside or rich versus poor. This problem DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE–it effects trailer homes and multimillion dollar homes alike as seen in Gasland II. So, if your land has natural gas, expect a well coming to you soon. And even if you live in a concrete jungle like New York City like myself, do not be complacent. Our water supply is in jeopardy and according to this video much more is at stake as well.
My guess is most of my friends and neighbors have no idea about this pipepline or the inherent risks. Have you seen any mention in The NYTimes or The Post? CNN? MSNBC?
And to all the proponents of Fracking and the chorus of…look at all the jobs, I ask… at what price?!! I promise you anyone working a natural gas well, should do so at their own risk. Seriously, how can anyone cheer for these jobs when they no doubt come with a slow and painful death??? (No, I am not being a drama queen!) I promise those cheering are doing so from their cushy, risk-free desk.
For more information go to the Gasland website, FAQs.
Gasland I and II can be viewed on Netflix.