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Groundbreaking Report Calculates Damage Done by Fracking
As federal policy makers decide on rules for fracking on public lands, a new report calculates the toll of this dirty drilling on our environment, including 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated by fracking in 2012—enough to flood all of Washington, DC, in a 22-foot deep toxic lagoon. The Environment America Research & Policy Center report, Fracking by the Numbers, is the first to measure the damaging footprint of fracking to date.
“The numbers don't lie—fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment," said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America. "If this dirty drilling continues unchecked, these numbers will only get worse.”
“At health clinics, we’re seeing nearby residents experiencing nausea, headaches and other symptoms linked to fracking pollution,” said David Brown, a toxicologist who has reviewed health data from Pennsylvania. “With billions of gallons of toxic waste coming each year, we’re just seeing the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of health risks.”
The report measured key indicators of fracking threats across the country, including:
- 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012—enough to flood all of Washington, DC, in a 22-foot deep toxic lagoon
- 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year
- 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005
- 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005
- 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005
Reviewing the totality of this fracking damage, the report’s authors conclude:
Given the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts, constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling—much less enforcing such safeguards at more than 80,000 wells, plus processing and waste disposal sites across the country—seems implausible. In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.
At the federal level, the report’s data on land destroyed by fracking operations comes as the Obama Administration considers a rule for fracking on public lands, and as the oil and gas industry is seeking to expand fracking to several places which help provide drinking water for millions of Americans—including the White River National Forest in Colorado and the Delaware River basin, which provides drinking water for more than 15 million Americans.
Along with the new numbers in today’s report, Environment America’s John Rumpler added one more: the more than 1 million public comments submitted this summer to the Obama administration rejecting its proposed rule for fracking on public lands as far too weak. Environment America is urging President Obama to follow the recommendation of his administration’s advisory panel on fracking to keep sensitive areas as off-limits to fracking.
“We need decisive action from Washington to protect our communities,” said John Fenton, a rancher from Pavillion, Wyoming who last week appealed to federal officials to re-open an investigation into contamination of drinking water there.
“The bottom line is this: The numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said Rumpler. “For our environment and for public health, we need to put a stop to fracking.”
Of particular concern are the billions of gallons of toxic waste created from fracking, which threaten the environment, public health and drinking water. Environment America is calling on federal officials to close the loophole that exempts this waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17) has introduced the CLEANER Act, H.R. 2825, to close that loophole.
“The data from today’s report shows that fracking is taking a dirty and destructive toll on our environment and health,” concluded Rumpler. “It’s time for our federal officials to step up; they can start by keeping fracking out of our forests and away from our parks, and closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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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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