Americans Against Fracking Calls for a Ban on Fracking in the U.S.
A group of more than 100 public health, consumer, environmental and faith-based organizations announced today the launch of Americans Against Fracking, a national coalition dedicated to banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and drilling associated with fracking for oil and natural gas in the U.S. Including organizations such as 350.org, Berks Gas Truth, Breast Cancer Action, CREDO Action, Catskill Mountain Keeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Democracy for America, Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Frack-Free Stark County, Illinois People’s Action and National Nurses United, Americans Against Fracking supports federal state and local efforts to ban fracking and to stop practices that facilitate fracking like natural gas exports, frac-sand mining and pipeline construction.
“Over and over, we’ve seen fracking and drilling for oil and natural gas contaminate water supplies, pollute our air and industrialize rural communities,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “With the oil and gas industry enjoying so many exemptions from key environmental laws, it’s clear that we can’t regulate ourselves away from this problem. We need to ban fracking now.”
“It is astonishing that a drilling practice that can cause your tap water to catch on fire is totally unregulated in many places in America," added Zack Malitz, campaign manager at CREDO Action. “There is no federal legislation or adequate state legislation to protect Americans from this dangerous practice. We can’t afford to wait for the government to play legislative catch-up with this rapidly expanding toxic industry. The only safe course is a national ban on fracking.”
An increasingly controversial form of oil and gas extraction, fracking is the process of taking millions of gallons of water, mixing it with tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals–including known carcinogens–and pumping it all underground at extreme pressure to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas. New techniques and technologies used in the process are more intensive and riskier than conventional drilling, making fracking more dangerous than ever. To date, more than 1,000 reported cases of water contamination have been associated with drilling and fracking.
“Fracking fouls our air, our water, and our climate,” said Rose Braz, the Center for Biological Diversity’s climate campaign director. “To avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to embrace conservation and clean energy – not focus on risky new ways to drain every last drop of the planet’s oil and gas. We need to ban fracking to protect our planet.”
"Since 2005 when the Bush-Cheney Administration ushered in fracking across the United States by giving the gas industry exemptions from all major federal environmental protections, fracking has been polluting the air we breathe, contaminating the water we drink, and tearing apart the communities we love. Americans Against Fracking will end this horrific era and stop the oil and gas industry from destroying more American lives," explained Julia Walsh, campaign director of Frack Action.
Fracking brings rampant environmental and economic problems to rural communities. Recent studies show that methane leakage from gas wells and carbon dioxide from the combustion of gas contribute to global warming pollution, and lead to more extreme weather including catastrophic drought, fires and superstorms. A recent report by the International Energy Agency confirmed that oil and natural gas development would ultimately spell disaster for the climate.
Elevated levels of smog and other airborne pollutants, including some carcinogens, plague regions with heavy drilling and fracking. Research shows that long lasting exposure to smog has been linked to various cancers, heart disease, diabetes and premature deaths in adults, and to asthma, premature birth and cognitive deficits in children.
“We know that drilling and fracking for oil and gas comes with inherent risks to public health and must be banned to safeguard public health, especially that of children, who are most vulnerable," said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of National Nurses United.
Communities in regions with drilling and fracking also face increased demand on emergency and other social services and job losses in other sectors of the economy such as agriculture and tourism. A 2011 study by the Keystone Research Center also found that the oil and gas industry is exaggerating the capacity of shale gas development to generate jobs and economic opportunity for Americans.
“We have a responsibility to safeguard this planet for future generations," said actor and Americans Against Fracking Advisory Committee member Mark Ruffalo. "Fracking puts our future in jeopardy, and threatens to spoil the natural resources on this planet for generations to come. It's time to close the door on the fossil fuel era and usher in a brighter future lit with truly renewable resources."
"Democracy for America members around the country are concerned that fracking jeopardizes our health and our water supply. We're proud to be part of a coalition that is organizing for a ban and to work with our members around the country in the fight against fracking,” said Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America.
As for energy security, industry overstates the role of natural gas as a long-term source of domestic energy, misrepresenting its intentions. As of October 26, the Department of Energy had received 19 proposals to export potentially vast amounts of liquefied natural gas, up to over 40 percent of current U.S. natural gas consumption. Considering this push to export, along with other efforts to increase natural gas demand, Food & Water Watch finds that the United States may only have 50 years worth of natural gas, not the 100 years worth popularly claimed. And this assumes the industry wins completely unrestricted access to drill and frack and assumes that notoriously uncertain estimates of shale gas reserves will prove accurate.
“There are a lot of people who care about the threat of fracking to our children's and grandchildren's future. That’s why Illinois People’s Action is joining Americans Against Fracking to organize for a ban,” explained Jim Reid of Illinois People’s Action.
“The false debate over shale gas drilling pits environmental, health and safety risks against economic gains,” added Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth. “In fact, the economics of fracking are almost as concerning as the environmental, health, and safety impacts which are not risks, but realities. There is no upside to drilling. It's time for a ban.”
Given these and other concerns, backlash against fracking and drilling is increasing. To date, 300 municipalities in the United States, as well as Vermont, Bulgaria and France, have passed resolutions to stop fracking. Last month, Longmont, Colorado made history as the first town in Colorado to ban fracking despite the fact that the oil and gas industry poured half a million dollars into opposing the successful ballot measure. Last year, activists successfully blocked a plan to open the Delaware River to fracking.
"Americans Against Fracking plays a significant role in the battle against hydraulic fracking. Longmont was the first community to ban this dangerous practice in Colorado, and is thrilled to have the support of Americans Against Fracking as we continue to secure our rights to health and safety," said Kaye Fissinger of the grassroots group Our Longmont.
“Communities are suffering where gas drilling is occurring but the industry is racing ahead, oblivious to the health impacts and indelible environmental pollution they are leaving behind. We are all standing up to the industry and their supporters with a unified message – fracking must stop and the industry must be made accountable now. We’re not going away until they go away,” concluded Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, representing the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.