Industry Consultants Warn Frackers: Do Not Underestimate the Global Anti-Fracking Movement
By Mike Ludwig
On July 28, more than 5,000 people from all over the U.S., and various parts of the world including Australia, united on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol demanding Congress take immediate action to stop fracking. Photo by Stefanie Spear
The bitter battle over fracking has gone global, and according to pro-business consultants, the oil and gas industry has every reason to be concerned.
Oil and gas rigs are popping up in communities across the world as the fossil fuels industry races to exploit reserves with the controversial drilling technique known as fracking. In response, a global anti-fracking movement has emerged, and activists are winning victories in countries across world.
A report recently released by the international consulting group Control Risks warns the oil and gas industry that it has underestimated the "sophistication, reach and influence" of the global anti-fracking movement. The report contends the opposition is not simply a spotty, not-in-my-backyard phenomenon "masquerading as environmentalism," but a diverse and well-organized coalition that is unlikely to be swayed by the industry's well-funded public relation campaigns.
The report's findings may come as no surprise to activists. The grassroots anti-fracking movement spread "organically" across the world as drilling continued to expand and spark controversy in new areas, according to the Control Risks report. Online social networking, rising media coverage and widespread distribution of Josh Fox's controversial 2010 documentary Gasland has stimulated the movement, and now there are hundreds of anti-fracking groups in the U.S., Canada, Australia and countries across Africa and Europe.
Fracking Unites Activists and Communities
The global anti-fracking movement may be grassroots in nature, but communities and activists across the world share the same concerns about the "significant" impacts of fracking, according to Mark Schlosberg, an anti-fracking organizer with the U.S.-based group Food & Water Watch.
Environmentalists and drilling opponents say fracking threatens to drain and contaminate local water supplies, cause air pollution, industrialize pristine rural areas and contribute to global warming.
"The issues people are facing in different parts of the world are the [same] issues that people are facing in the U.S.," Schlosberg said.
Schlosberg said fracking directly affects those living near the rigs, but climate change and dependence on fossil fuels affects everyone. Recent studies that fracking operations can release considerable amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas, and concerns over global warming have united climate change activists with the global anti-fracking movement.
In many parts of the world, activists also are pushing the industry to invest locally and provide better economic compensation to the communities where drilling is taking place, according to the Control Risks report.
Global Activism Puts Fracking at Risk
The most significant "risk" posed by the anti-fracking movement is bans and moratoriums on drilling, according to Control Risks.
In France, fracking was banned indefinitely in 2011 after significant public outcry, and the French government reaffirmed the ban in September 2012.
Food & Water Watch, which supports a national ban on fracking in the U.S., has tracked 308 local measures to address fracking in municipalities across the nation. Some communities banned fracking altogether, while others put limits on fracking activity or symbolically endorsed statewide bans.
Public outcry also has pushed some governments to conduct safety reviews of fracking that could pave the way for tighter regulations.
Under orders from Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently conducting a study on fracking and its potential impacts on water supplies. The agency recently released a progress report, but a final report will not be released until 2014. Meanwhile, fracking is rapidly expanding across much of the U.S. with little federal regulatory oversight.
The industry also should be wary of radical and direct action activists, according to Control Risks. Activists have peacefully blockaded fracking sites in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Poland as direct action-oriented environmental groups like Earth First! rally opposition to fracking. Isolated acts of minor vandalism and sabotage to drilling equipment also have been reported in the U.S. and Poland.
"They would not have commissioned this report if they didn't think the anti-fracking movement was effective," Schlosberg said.
Control Risks spokesman Chris Levy told Truthout the company released the report to attract the fracking industry to its consulting services. The firm helps companies and large industries manage "hostile environments" and threats to international business ranging from anti-corruption investigations to anti-industry activism, kidnappings, maritime piracy and even terrorism, according to the firm's website.
Steve Everley, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, a U.S.-based information service created and funded by oil and gas industry groups, said the Control Risks report accepts that fracking can be done safely, and he is not convinced that the anti-fracking movement has been successful in stopping drilling with "false claims and manufactured science."
"As for the supposed successes that opponents have had, I think they're pretty much limited to headlines and maybe an uptick in their fundraising efforts, because they really haven't stopped the industry from drilling wells," said Everley, who added that fracking is creating jobs across the country and expanding domestic energy production.
Schlosberg, however, said the report demonstrates what activists already know—the global anti-fracking movement is a threat, and the industry will continue to ramp up its tactics to "ram this through."
The Control Risks report advises the industry to quell the opposition by reforming its practices. Instead of flatly denying any wrongdoing and accusing reported fracking victims of spreading "fear" and "hysteria," fracking companies should acknowledge the negative impacts of drilling and the grievances of those impacted, like residents who believe their water supplies have been contaminated. Frackers also should put more resources toward protecting the environment and disclose the chemicals they pump into the ground during drilling, the report said. Activists in the U.S. have fought for such disclosure for years.
Control Risks also suggests that simply telling the public that drilling will lower energy prices is not enough to gain support, and the industry should "create more winners" in the communities where fracking occurs. Drilling firms should invest in communities by buying local supplies, hiring and training local workers and paying all required taxes. Most crucially, drillers should make long-term local investments to ensure sustained economic benefits to communities, even after drilling is complete.
Schlosberg, however, said environmentalists and anti-fracking activists want long-term solutions to the world's dependence on fossil fuels, not simple reforms offered by an already wealthy industry. Activists, he said, must remain "very vigilant, mobilized and organized" as the industry wakes up to the reality of the global anti-fracking movement.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
By Suzanne Cords
One day Lizzie, the first-person narrator of the novel, receives an old book as a gift, with a dedication wishing the reader to be among the survivors. Like the preppers who build bunkers and stockpile supplies in remote areas to be ready for the end of the world, Lizzie is convinced that the end of the world is definitely near in times of a threatening climate disaster.
Lizzie, who lives in New York with her husband and son, is a university campus librarian. She worries about almost everything: her brother, an ex-junkie, or her dental insurance and the future in the face of the apocalypse. She is obsessed with reading reference books and articles about climate change.
She also devours words of wisdom, including about Buddhist spirituality: "A visitor once asked the old monks on Mount Athos what they did all day, and was told: We have died and we are in love with everything." But nothing can lift her spirits.
'Lizzie Is Just Like Us'
Lizzie observes rich New Yorkers plan their move to regions that are less threatened by climate change, something she simply cannot afford. Sometimes she watches disaster movies, which lead her to worry even more.
Above all, she is a gifted observer of her fellow human beings. "Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters? Old person worry: What if everything I do, does?"
Lizzie, the U.S. author told DW, is a bit like the rest of us — well aware of the climate crisis, but because she cares and worries about so many other things, that awareness falls by the wayside. That's how she felt herself, Jenny Offill said, but the more she looked into the issue, the more she saw a need for action on her part, too.
"I also was trying to see if there was a way to make it funny, because, you know, so much of the world of prepping and imagining disaster is actually sort of strangely funny."
The novel was shortlisted for the 2020 UK's Women's Prize for Fiction and has now been released in German translation.
Climate Activist With a Vision
But then, there is also this serious, scientifically based concern about what climate change means. In the past, says Offill, artists were the ones who would predict disasters; today it's the experts, as well as the students she teaches. In the end, their fears and their justified anger motivated her to take a closer look at the issue. Today, she is a climate activist herself, and is involved in initiatives along with many other artists.
Lizzie, the heroine of Weather, hasn't gotten that far. But she voices her fears, and that's a start. "Of course, the world continues to end," says Sylvia, a mentor of Lizzie's, at one point — and commences to water her garden. There is hope after all.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Jake Johnson
A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt the final blow to former President Donald Trump's attempt to open nearly 130 million acres of territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to oil and gas drilling.
Though the Trump administration appealed the ruling, President Joe Biden revoked his predecessor's 2017 order shortly after taking office, rendering the court case moot. On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to dismiss the Trump administration's appeal.
"Because the terms of the challenged Executive Order are no longer in effect, the relevant areas of the [Outer Continental Shelf] in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Atlantic Ocean will be withdrawn from exploration and development activities," the court said in its order.
Erik Grafe of Earthjustice, which represented a coalition of advocacy groups that challenged Trump's order, said in a statement that "we welcome today's decision and its confirmation of President Obama's legacy of ocean and climate protection."
"As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage," Grafe continued. "One obvious place for immediate action is America's Arctic, including the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic, which the previous administration sought to relegate to oil development in a series of last-minute decisions that violate bedrock environmental laws."
VICTORY: 9th Circuit ends fight over President Trump's illegal attempt to open up 128 million acres of Atlantic & A… https://t.co/TvYVt2F1jO— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice)1618347073.0
In January, Biden ordered a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, a decision environmentalists hailed as a positive step that should be made permanent.
"We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop," Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said at the time. "The climate crisis requires it and he promised it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By 2035, every new car and truck sold in the U.S. could be an EV, a new report says.
Accelerations in technology and especially battery affordability, paired with new policy, mean the dramatic transition would save American drivers $2.7 trillion by 2050, an average savings of $1,000 per household per year.
The ramp up in EV production would also create 2 million new jobs by 2035. Battery prices have fallen 74% since 2014, and their unexpectedly rapid fall is a key driver of the cost savings.
EVs are far simpler mechanically, and more efficient, than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which translates to reduced climate pollution and lower costs for consumers.
Strengthened vehicle efficiency standards and investment in fast charging infrastructure are needed to accelerate the transition, which would prevent 150,000 premature deaths and save $1.3 trillion in health environmental costs by 2050.
For a deeper dive:
Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Currently, more than 1,300 Superfund sites pose a serious health risk to nearby communities. Based on a new study, residents living close to these sites could also have a shorter life expectancy.
Published in Nature Communications, the study, led by Hanadi S. Rifai, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, and a team of researchers, found that living in nearby zip codes to Superfund sites resulted in a decreased life expectancy of more than two months, the University of Houston reported.
"We have ample evidence that contaminant releases from anthropogenic sources (e.g., petrochemicals or hazardous waste sites) could increase the mortality rate in fence-line communities," Rifai told the University of Houston. "Results showed a significant difference in life expectancy among census tracts with at least one Superfund site and their neighboring tracts with no sites."
The study pulled data from 65,000 census tracts – defined geographical regions – within the contiguous U.S., The Guardian reported. With this data, researchers found that for communities that are socioeconomically challenged, this life expectancy could decrease by up to a year.
"It was a bit surprising and concerning," Rifai told The Guardian. "We weren't sure [when we started] if the fact that you are socioeconomically challenged would make [the Superfund's effects] worse."
The research team, for example, found that the presence of a Superfund site in a census tract with a median income of less than $52,580 could reduce life expectancy by seven months, the University of Houston reported.
Many of these toxic sites were once used as manufacturing sites during the Second World War. Common toxic substances that are released from the sites into the air and surface water include lead, trichlorethylene, chromium, benzene and arsenic – all of which can lead to health impacts, such as neurological damage among children, The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog.
"The EPA has claimed substantial recent progress in Superfund site cleanups, but, contrary to EPA leadership's grandiose declarations, the backlog of unfunded Superfund cleanups is the largest it has been in the last 15 years," the Union wrote.
Delayed cleanup could become increasingly dangerous as climate change welcomes more natural hazards, like wildfires and flooding. According to a Government Accountability Office report, for example, climate change could threaten at least 60 percent of Superfund sites in the U.S., AP News reported.
During the summer of 2018, a major wildfire took over the Iron Mountain Superfund site near Redding, CA, ruining wastewater treatment infrastructure that is responsible for capturing 168 million gallons of acid mine drainage every month, NBC News reported.
"There was this feeling of 'My God. We ought to have better tracking of wildfires at Superfund locations,'" Stephen Hoffman, a former senior environmental scientist at the EPA, told NBC News. "Before that, there wasn't a lot of thought about climate change and fire. That has changed."
In the study, researchers also looked at the impacts of floodings on Superfund sites, which could send toxins flowing into communities and waterways.
"When you add in flooding, there will be ancillary or secondary impacts that can potentially be exacerbated by a changing future climate," Rifai told the University of Houston. "The long-term effect of the flooding and repetitive exposure has an effect that can transcend generations."
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A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.