6 Reasons to Celebrate the Growth of the Ban Fracking Movement
It's hard to recall a moment since last November's election sweep in Colorado as indicative of both the breadth and growing power of the movement to protect communities from fracking. Through a series of outrageous developments, we've also seen recently, the hypocrisy of big oil and gas and the government officials that promote their interests. Following an amazing few weeks of activism, fractivists everywhere have plenty of reasons to celebrate these days.
1. California Rising: The movement to ban fracking in California is growing at an incredible pace, and elected officials are starting to respond. Last Friday, following a packed hearing that reflected the diversity of Los Angeles, the City Council passed a motion to write a moratorium on fracking. This makes L.A. the largest city in the country to pass such a measure, and also follows the launch of California Farmers Against Fracking. Several other cities and counties are considering bans or moratoriums, and all of this helps build momentum to the big rally in Sacramento on March 15, where activists across the state will call on Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking.
2. Colorado Fight Goes Statewide: In the last two years, Food & Water Watch has worked to support allies on the ground in Colorado to pass ballot measures to ban or place moratoriums on fracking, which is threatening major population centers across the state. Following recent victories in Fort Collins, Broomfield, Lafayette and Boulder, last Monday we joined local allies to launch Local Control Colorado, a statewide measure that would affirm the power of communities to ban or otherwise restrict fracking. We've also learned that a measure to protect communities from fracking in Broomfield, which had been challenged in the courts, was upheld.
3. Connecticut Moves on Fracking Waste: While it has not received the attention of fights in California, New York or Colorado, there is a move in Connecticut to ban the disposal of fracking waste in the state. We've been working closely with Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Grassroots Environmental Education, and others, and last Friday, the legislature held its first hearing on the measure, taking testimony in front of a packed house of residents opposed to fracking waste. This was the first step in the legislative process, and the first committee vote should be later in March.
4. Pizza Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry: One of the most overlooked aspects of the dangers of fracking are the effects it imposes on workers. Jobs in the oil and gas industry are very risky, with high injury rates. Last week, after a gas well exploded in Green County, Pennsylvania injuring one worker and killing another, Chevron decided an apology was in order. But instead of taking the matter seriously, they instead had the gall to offer residents a free pizza and large soda as an apparent gesture of goodwill. Local residents were not amused, and our friends at Berks Gas Truth and Environmental Action organized a series of actions calling on Chevron to apologize. This was a major success, garnering more than 12,000 signature on a petition and significant media coverage, and further exposing the lack of regard major oil and gas companies have for communities.
5. Exxon CEO Hypocrisy Exposed: A lawsuit challenging a water tower intended to supply water to fracking sites has also attracted national attention. Notable here was that it was brought in part by Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon. Apparently its okay with Exxon if fracking poisons water, pollutes the air, ravages communities and destroys our climate, but if activities related to fracking interfere with the view out Tillerson's kitchen window, or the value of his 83-acre horse ranch, well, then, that's just not acceptable.
6. Governor Kasich—Fracking Hypocrite: Speaking of hypocrisy, it was recently revealed that Ohio Governor John Kasich's Department of Natural Resources was plotting a public relations plan to ease fracking in state parks. It envisioned coordinating with allies such as Halliburton and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, and named a long list of "eco-left adversaries" including two members of the state legislature. Once this was revealed, Kasich claimed he was not in favor of fracking in state parks because the regulatory framework was insufficient. This raises a key question—if fracking is not safe in state parks, why it is safe in our communities? The public pushed back, urging Kasich to come clean and release all information related to this incident.
These developments show that the movement to ban fracking grows stronger by the day. Fracking, and all the public health, environmental, economic and safety concerns that come with it, are not what our nation needs. Oil and gas are shortsighted, unsustainable energy sources. We all deserve a just, sustainable, frack-free future, so let's keep fighting for one.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.