A new report1 on shale resources and hydraulic fracturing from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)—an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress—concludes that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment. The report, which reviewed studies from state agencies overseeing fracking as well as scientific reports, found that the extent of the risks has not yet been fully quantified and that there are many unanswered questions and a lack of scientific data.
Major reports and studies were also released in Europe the past two months, all of which came to the conclusion that fracking poses serious risks to water, public health, and the environment, and that additional scientific study is necessary. Meanwhile, in NY hundreds2 of doctors, scientists, and medical organizations have renewed calls for an independent, comprehensive health impact assessment and additional scientific research.
“The big-money gas industry is at it again,” said John Armstrong of Frack Action on behalf of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a broad coalition of New Yorkers opposed to fracking. “Rather than allow a comprehensive independent health assessment that can study the dangers fracking poses to our water and health, they just want to frack as quickly as possible and take their profits back to Texas.”
Given the conclusions from the broad NY, U.S., and world-wide scientific and medical community that fracking poses serious public health and environmental risks and needs further scientific study, the gas industry and the Joint Landowners Coalition’s rush to frack is dangerously reckless and irresponsible.
The Government Accountability Office report, which includes review of the New York Department of Conservation's study of fracking, finds that there is insufficient data and scientific study to determine the extent of risks fracking poses to groundwater and avenues for groundwater contamination, but it does note that such contamination can take place. For example, the report states that, "Underground migration can occur as a result of improper casing and cementing of the well bore as well as the intersection of induced fractures with natural fractures, faults, or improperly plugged dry or abandoned wells. Moreover, there are concerns that induced fractures can grow over time and intersect with drinking water aquifers" (page 46).
The GAO's concerns about improperly plugged and abandoned wells strike an unnerving note in New York especially, given that the Associated Press recently found3 that Department of Environmental Conservation records, "reveal thousands of unplugged and abandoned wells and other industrial problems that could pose a threat to groundwater, wetlands, air quality and public safety."
The GAO report also raises many other concerns long held by NY health professionals and scientists, such as the negative impacts that fracking will mean for air quality. The GAO report concludes that, "Construction of the well pad, access road, and other drilling facilities requires substantial truck traffic, which degrades air quality. Air quality may also be degraded as fleets of trucks travelingnewly graded or unpaved roads increase the amount of dust released into the air—which can contribute to the formation of regional haze" (page 33).
GAO goes on to raise concerns that silica sand—commonly used as a proppant in the hyrdaulic fracturing process—may pose a risk to human health. GAO notes that according to a federal researcher from the Department of Health and Human Services, particles from the sand "can lodge in the lungs and potentially cause silicosis" (page 33).
That the gas industry and the Joint Landowners Coalition would push to frack, rather than listen to the science and medical experts and wait for the necessary studies such as an independent, comprehensive health impact assessment4 to be undertaken, is indicative that they are comfortable putting profits before health and are unwilling to participate in a debate based on the science and facts.
On behalf of New Yorkers Against Fracking, Armstrong said, “Fracking proponents continue their reckless and irresponsible push to frack even in the face of an overwhelming body of science showing that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment and consensus among experts and government agencies that we need more scientific study on fracking. Our water, air and health are priceless.”
The new reports from Europe include a comprehensive report5 from the European Commission's Environment Directorate-General, a joint report6 from Germany's Federal Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and a year-long German Hydrofracking Risk Assessment7 study from a panel of independent experts.
Among the conclusions8 from the European Commission's Environment Directorate-General’s comprehensive report5 are that there is "a high risk of surface and groundwater contamination at various stages of the well-pad construction, hydraulic fracturing and gas production processes, and well abandonment, and cumulative developments could further increase this risk." The report also points to air emissions impacts that pose "potentially significant effect on air quality including ozone levels."
The conclusions8 from the joint report6 by Germany's Federal Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety include that fracking can lead to groundwater contamination,that experts advise against large-scale fracking and that there should be a ban in areas that provide drinking water, and that more scientific study is necessary to evaluate environmental risks.
Germany’s year-long Hydrofracking Risk Assessment7 by a panel of independent experts similarly found8 that fracking entails serious risks, that it can do substantial harm to water resources, and pointed to greater concerns about fracking in areas that supply drinking water.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
1Government Accountability Office. September, 2012. "OIL AND GAS: Information on Shale Resources, Development, and Environmental and Public Health Risks" <http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/647791.pdf>
2Physicians Scientists & Engineers for a Healthy Environment. October 5, 2011. "Physicians Sign-On Letter to Governor Cuomo" <http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/site/view/1024>
3Associated Press. September 26, 2012. "Marcellus Shale links: NY records show history of oil, gas well problems" <http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/marcellus_shale_links_ny_recor.html>
4Capitol Confidential. October 4, 2012. "Doctors, Nurses Press Cuomo on Hydrofracking Health Review" <http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/159030/doctors-nurses-press-cuomo-on-hydrofracking-health-review/>
5October 8, 2012. "Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involvinghydraulic fracturing in Europe" <http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/energy/pdf/fracking%20study.pdf>
6Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Environment Agency. September, 2012. "Tight restrictions on hydraulic fracturing required" <http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/uba-info-presse-e/2012/pe12-028_tight_restrictions_on_hydraulic_fracturing_required.htm>
7Germany Hydrofracking Risk Assessment by a panel of independent experts. 2012. "Hydrofracking Risk Assessment" <http://dialog-erdgasundfrac.de/sites/dialog-erdgasundfrac.de/files/Ex_HydrofrackingRiskAssessment_120611.pdf>
8The Energy Collective. October 11, 2012. "The latest science from Europe on fracking" <http://theenergycollective.com/amymall/122906/latest-science-europe-fracking>
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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