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Book review: Fracking Pennsylvania: Fracking With Disaster by Walter M. Brasch, Greeley and Stone Publishers, LLC, Carmichael, CA; 2013; 274 pages, $14.95
As an anti-fracking activist, one of the most important things I've learned in this work is how necessary it is for us to be connected and know about each other's work, experiences and information. Walter Brasch has made a valuable contribution to that effort. If I were teaching a course on environmental ethics, Brasch’s books would be on the reading list.
Industry supporters who are derisive toward those of us who raise concerns about the safety of fracking will often repeat lines such as, "Bring your facts to the table. Stop fear-mongering. Base your arguments on scientific facts." Thanks to Brasch, we can do just that. His book is replete with facts, figures, dates and exact quotes (all meticulously footednoted) from industry and government officials on fracking. It is all woven together in a cohesive way that takes the reader through the complexities of issues surrounding shale gas drilling. If you are not alarmed and fearful while reading Brasch's book, you are not sufficiently engaging its content.
After a primer on fracking, its origins, the availability of natural gas, the realities and dangers of underground storage, and the current bans and moratoria in place on fracking, Part One covers the historical, political and economic issues of shale gas drilling. This includes an exhaustive scavenger hunt down the money trails between the industry and politicians at the federal and state levels. Brasch devotes many pages to explaining Act 13, the industry-favoring law that attempts to trump local jurisdictions and put gag orders on the medical and health care field while doing little to protect public health and environmental integrity.
The fact that lawmakers exempted the affluent suburbs in PA from gas drilling demonstrates just how disingenuous they are when it comes to sacrificing rural areas while protecting themselves from the dangers of drilling. Chapter Four, The Economics of Fracking, investigates and debunks the much-touted claims about job-creation and the lure of easy money and weighs them against the costs of forced pooling, losing land rights through eminent domain, and real estate and insurance risks.
Part One concludes with the saga of Riverdale, the mobile home park of 32 families who were forcibly evicted to make room for Aqua America’s water-withdrawal plant to sell water from the Susquehanna River to the fracking industry. As an active participant in that drama, I believe Brasch has done an excellent job of collecting interviews, researching the myriad details surrounding the case, and preserving for history the effort to protect homes, families and the surrounding ecosystem from fracking. While the effort is only a memory, it changed all of us involved in the six-month crisis, and I am grateful Brasch has recorded it so thoroughly in this volume.
Part Two examines health and environmental issues ranging from water and air pollution to effects on agriculture, livestock and wildlife. His coverage of subjects such as pipeline regulation (or lack thereof), flowback treatment, underground injection of wastewater and earthquakes reveal just how dangerous every aspect of shale gas drilling is. Most disconcerting is the fact that by the industry’s own admittance, there are and will be problems, but that the harm to health, community, and the environment are all justifiable and permissible in the cost-risk ratio. Part Two comes to a close by giving an overview of the myriad ways in which people have pushed back against the industry and frack-friendly politicians through grassroots organizations, social networking, films, music and other media.
Given all that Brasch methodically lays out in his book about the dangers of fracking, he comes to a conclusion that is quite modest: that it’s understandable for people to grab for the temporary jobs and royalty checks, but that the government has a responsibility to protect people and their environment instead of doing all it can to pander to the gas industry. One senses a sigh of frustrated resignation as Brasch predicts that after the gas has been tapped, the royalty checks cease, and the jobs fly away, the citizens of Pennsylvania will, once again, be left to clean up the mess, as we have done for decades after the lumber and coal industries extracted all they could from us.
The whole fracking-game reminds me of taking my children to a carnival where the bright lights and games of chance beckon them to spend their allowance to win a fabulous prize. They see a handful of people walking around with big stuffed animals and rationalize that they, too, can enjoy such rewards. But the grown-ups know that it's all a racket. For every "winner," there are hundreds of people who were duped, who spent great sums of money and received no prize. And those who do walk away with the big stuffed bunny get home to find the seams loose and limbs falling off—proof of how cheaply made and worthless the prize truly was.
In the same way, for every "winner" in the frack-racket, there are hundreds who were duped, who received no big pay-off from the industry, whose well-paying job dissolved when the company pulled out and moved, and who found their well poisoned, their health destroyed and their communities ruined. Brasch is one of the grown-ups who is trying to tell us the truth about this racket and reveal the ugly underside of fracking-roulette. Whether anyone will listen, only time will tell.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
The Rev. Leah D. Schade is the Pastor at United in Christ Lutheran Church, Lewisburg, PA. She is the founder of Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition and can be reached via email at email@example.com. She is a PhD Candidate at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
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By Carey Gillam
Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.
A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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