Setting the Record Straight on Fracking
Earlier this month, just days after voters in Colorado and Ohio went to the ballot box to protect their communities against the demonstrably dangerous oil and gas drilling process known as fracking, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell delivered a proclamation that only served to highlight just how much misguided faith the Obama administration has invested in the oil and gas industry, and its quest to keep the American public hooked on fossil fuels.
Speaking before youth conservation leaders in California, Jewell cited what she called "confusion" in the fracking debate, implored the oil and gas industry to clear up "misinformation," about the process, and asserted that industry should "make sure the public understands ... why it's safe." But the only thing confusing about the fracking debate is why this administration continues to embrace the practice in the face of scientific evidence that fracking and associated activities contaminates water, air, communities and the climate.
Hardly a month goes by without the release of a new study that highlights one aspect or another of the harmful effects of fracking. Given these headlines, it's no wonder that despite the untold millions of dollars being spent by the oil and gas industry to promote the process, Americans are increasingly rejecting it. A recent poll released by the Pew Research Group finds that opposition to fracking has grown significantly across most regions and demographic groups. Overall, 49 percent are opposed to increased fracking, up from 38 percent six months ago, while only 44 percent support it.
Americans are turning against this practice not because they are confused, but because the evidence of fracking's harmful effects continues to swell. In just the last few months, a Duke University study linked fracking to elevated levels of methane, ethane and propane in groundwater; a study out of University of Texas, Arlington found high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in samples from water wells near active natural gas wells; and last month, a study in Environmental Science and Technology found concentrations of radium in the Allegheny River 200 times normal levels, as a result of fracking waste disposal.
Recent studies also confirm that the common practice of shoving fracking waste down underground injection wells causes earthquakes. And we now understand how and why this happens: according to new a study in Science, deep-well injection of slippery fracking waste primes geological faults in ways that make them reactive to distant natural earthquakes. The result is a dangerous echo effect: a larger seismic event thousands of miles away can trigger swarms of smaller earthquakes on these critically stressed faults. This research supports other findings on earthquake swarms in Oklahoma, Texas and Ohio that are linked to oil and gas activities. Indeed, just this month, the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner recommended that residents buy earthquake insurance—in the formerly unshakable state of Oklahoma.
Just last week, 18 top scientists, including retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen, wrote a letter to Governor Jerry Brown in California urging a moratorium on fracking in the state. Shale gas and oil extraction through fracking, said the scientists, "is likely to worsen climate disruption, which would harm California's efforts to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Nothing confusing about that message.
While fracking's impacts are increasingly clear, what is unclear is why the Obama administration continues to cheerlead for big oil and gas interests, ignoring the science—even when the data come from its own agencies.
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered evidence of fracking-related water contamination in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming, it could have sounded the alarm about the practice. It could have stood up for citizens' rights to clean drinking water. It could have, at the very least, continued its line of inquiry. Instead, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has folded under industry pressure, and either buried, cast off or halted all three investigations. And when members of the public sent one million comments to President Obama and the Bureau of Land Management condemning their permissive approach to fracking on federal lands, Secretary Jewell simply ignored them and chose to offer public relations advice to the oil and gas industry, rather than work to protect communities and public lands that belong to all of us.
And therein lies the confusion.
Secretary Jewell is right about one thing: there is a lot of misinformation out there. Unfortunately, it's being spread by the oil and gas industry and has penetrated the talking points of President Obama and top administration officials. If President Obama and Secretary Jewell are serious about listening to the science and addressing climate change, they need to stop echoing industry, stand up for public health, make every effort to stop this destructive practice and keep fossil fuels in the ground.
In the unconfused words of Filipino environmental leader Von Hernandez, "every investment in fossil fuels is an investment in death and destruction."
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt met with Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris before deciding to reverse an earlier EPA decision to ban the company's toxic and widely used pesticide, chlorpyrifos.
According to records obtained by the Associated Press, the EPA boss met with Liveris for about 30 minutes at a Houston hotel on March 9. Later that month, Pruitt announced that he would no longer pursue a ban on chlorpyrifos from being used on food, ignoring his agency's own review that even small amounts of the pesticide could impact fetus and infant brain development.
Native communities and environmental justice advocates in Louisiana opened a new resistance camp Saturday to oppose the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline project. Called L'eau Est La Vie, or Water is Life, the camp will consist of floating indigenous art structures on rafts and constant prayer ceremonies during its first two weeks.
Continuing its march toward elimination of key Clean Water Act protections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday issued a formal notice of withdrawal of the Obama administration's rule defining which waters can be protected against pollution and destruction under federal law.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not doing enough to prevent weed resistance to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) says a new report from the EPA's Inspector General's Office, which draws in part on a report from the agbiotech company, Pioneer: Weed Management in the Era of Glyphosate Resistance.
When it comes to the latest wind turbine technologies, size matters. A group of six institutions and universities is designing an offshore wind turbine that will stand 500 meters in height. That's taller than the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building.
The research team, led by researchers at the University of Virginia, believes that its wind turbine concept will produce 50 megawatts of peak power, or about 10 times more powerful than conventional wind turbines.
Natural gas is often considered the cleanest fossil fuel, but could it actually be dirtier than coal?
Watch as New York Times reporter Mark Bittman, in the above Year's of Living Dangerously video, investigates how much methane is leaking at fracking wells. Find out how the natural gas industry's claims compare to what scientists are reporting.
See what happens when Gaby Petron, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA, converts her van into a mobile methane detector and sets out across northeastern Colorado for two years, taking thousands of readings to uncover the truth.
Adrian Grenier: 'We Must Usher in a New Era of Compassion Through Forward Thinking Environmental Programs'
Adrian Grenier was named UN Goodwill Ambassador earlier this month. The Hollywood actor, best known for his iconic role of A-list movie star Vincent Chase in the HBO smash hit and film Entourage, will advocate for drastically reducing single-use plastic and protection of marine species, and encourage his followers to make conscious consumer choices to reduce their environmental footprint, according to the UN Environment announcement.
"Together we must usher in a new era of compassion and carefulness through forward thinking environmental programs to drive measurable change," Grenier said. "I am personally committed to creating ways in which the global community can come together to help solve our most critical climate crises through routine, collective action.
"The more we connect to nature in our daily lives, the more dedicated we will become to our individual commitments. Together, I believe we can go further, faster in our race to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030."
Watch the video above to learn more.