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Wolfgang Meinhart

By Andy Rowell

Soon British consumers will be cooking and heating their homes with American fracked gas for the first time.

But there is growing evidence that fracked U.S. gas—and the infrastructure being built to supply it—has a huge ecological, social and personal impact back in the U.S., which British consumers may not know about.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Some 182,000 petitions have been delivered to the U.S. Senate to urge it to reject plans to dramatically expedite exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia have prompted some members of Congress to push to export LNG overseas, but doing so will lead to increased fracking in the U.S., subjecting American communities to the public health, economic and environmental risks associated with the practice.

Approving LNG terminals for export will lead to increased fracking in the U.S.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Concerned Americans across the U.S. delivered petitions from Food & Water Watch and actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, in coordination with MoveOn.org and Environmental Action, to the offices of the following senators urging them to vote against bills that would allow LNG exports:

  • Sen. Udall (D-CO)
  • Sen. Reid (D-NV)
  • Sen. Durbin (D-IL)
  • Sen. Kirk (R-IL)
  • Sen. Markey (D-MA)
  • Sen. Warren (D-MA)
  • Sen. Cardin (D-MD)
  • Sen. Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Sen. Hagan (D-NC)
  • Sen. Schumer (D-NY)
  • Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Sen. Boxer (D-CA)
  • Sen. Wyden (D-OR)
  • Sen. Merkley (D-OR)
  • Sen. Sanders (I-VT)
  • Sen. Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Sen. Baldwin (D-WI)

This month, Americans also made more than 1,400 calls to their senators, urging them to reject LNG exports.

“Fracked gas is not a geopolitical bargaining chip, nor should American communities be sacrificed to the oil and gas industry’s quest to increase profits,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Pushing to increase exports of gas flies in the face of industry claims that fracking will make the U.S. more energy independent, and since most of the gas will go to Asia where it can fetch the highest price, exports will only increase gas prices for American consumers.” 

Earlier this month, Sen. Udall and Rep. Gardner (R-CO) introduced bills that would expedite exports of LNG. Sen. Landrieu (D-LA), presiding over her first meeting as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recently came out full-force in favor of exports too. These bills would deem all exports in the public interest if the gas were sent to a member nation of the World Trade Organization, which includes 75 percent of all nations, including China, India, Japan, Brazil and Russia

The Obama Administration has given initial approval for seven LNG export facilities, including the Cove Point facility in Calvert County, Maryland. Earlier this month, an LNG facility near the Columbia River at Plymouth, WA, exploded, injuring workers and forcing the evacuation of 400 residents and agricultural workers within a two-mile radius.

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Josh Fox

President Obama announced his new climate change plan today at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

It's amazing to watch the bully pulpit, with all the power of this president's ability to command words, focus on the greatest crisis of our generation. I applaud the President for tackling climate change in his speech today. It’s the most important issue we face. Reducing coal pollution, increasing energy efficiency, stimulating more renewable energy—it’s about time. Especially because Dr. Hansen and other climate scientists have shown that time is running out.

However, all the good that President Obama will do with his reductions in CO2 from power plants will be undone by his embrace of fracked gas. It is clear that he does not have the right information on fracked gas. His administration has allowed the gas industry to influence far too much of this process. In March, the President called a meeting to discuss his pending climate plan. The group of 14 energy-industry leaders—nine were CEOs of energy companies—included the head of the oil and gas giant Anadarko; Southwest Gas; Edison Electric Institute; FedEx, which pushes a switch to gas vehicles; and former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a longtime booster of gas.
 
As a result, this plan has become a wholesale endorsement of increased natural gas use in America and abroad. For all the correct emphasis on the dangers of climate change, the plan is: frack now, frack here and frack all over the world. Fracked gas isn’t a bridge fuel—it’s a gangplank.

The President’s Climate Action Plan says methane is 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2). This is incorrect, it’s far more than that—for the first 20 years, methane is 80 to 105 times more powerful, than CO2 as a warming agent in the atmosphere. This means you need between 80 to 100 pounds of CO2 to equal the warming potential of 1 pound of methane. So even limited methane leaks from fracked wells (not to mention compressors and pipelines) can make fracked gas worse for climate than coal. And the leaks aren’t minimal or easily solvable. And methane is leaking like crazy. A series of peer reviewed studies have now put the leakage rates at between seven and 17 percent. Above one to three percent, the science tells us that developing fracked gas is worse than coal for the atmosphere.
 
Additionally there is the large problem of water contamination from drilling and fracking. A large percentage of the wells leak—as industry’s own documents and other studies show. These documents come from drilling giant Schlumberger, Archer Oil & Gas, Southwestern Energy and Society of Petroleum Engineers, to name just a few. A leaking well can’t be prevented, and it can’t usually be repaired thousands of feet below the earth. The great pressures under the earth, shrinkage, vibrations from nearby drilling, temperature changes—these all crack the cement that protects the well from leakage.
 
Coal is abhorrent. Coal production and use needs to be curtailed immediately, no new coal plants should be built and those that exist now need to be shut down. But the same is true for natural gas fired power plants. We do not want to see greenhouse gas emissions go down in the coal sector at the power plants only to rise from leaking gas in the gas fields, in the transmissions systems and the delivery systems in our major cities.
 
I’m glad the President is going to study methane leakage—what he will find will make fracking impossible. See Gasland Part II if you want to see huge clouds of methane billowing out from fracked wells. It airs on HBO July 8.

Exporting fracked gas is even worse. It takes more energy to convert the gas to liquid for shipment, negating any greenhouse advantage even more. And meanwhile, with the high percentage of well cement that cracks and leaks, and no way to prevent it given the pressures under the earth, the President’s plan will ruin drinking water for many families without any climate advantage. What’s the sense of that?
 
I am glad the President is increasing energy efficiency investments. But the scale could be so much larger. We could save far more energy than we will ever produce with fracking by just insulating all the buildings in America. This will create far more jobs than fracking, and save consumers money forever. Let’s do this instead of fracking hundreds of thousands of leaky wells in populated areas.

The President should meet with the families whose lives have been ruined by fracking, as depicted in Gasland Part II. He should meet with Dr. Tony Ingraffea of Cornell and other long-time oil and gas experts not currently in the pay of industry to learn the truth. We respect his sincere desire to do something about climate change. Fracking for gas will not help and it may just make the accelerate climate change beyond the current status quo.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

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Sierra Club

The Center for International Environmental Law, Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Earthworks, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society sent a letter to President Obama strongly pushing for a timeout on natural gas exports until critical national economic, environmental and trade concerns are thoroughly analyzed and carefully addressed.



The letter to the Obama Administration comes on the heels of the recent public comment period to the Department of Energy (DOE), who commissioned NERA Consulting to conduct a study of the impacts natural gas exports would have on the nation’s economy. DOE is currently reviewing proposals for 16 export facilities. If all of these facilities were approved and developed, they would export a volume of gas equal to almost half of the natural gas currently produced in the U.S. 



Sierra Club and a number of allied groups also filed extensive technical comments on the NERA economic study, stating it is incomplete, extremely flawed, and favors the interests of dirty fuel investors over those of the majority of Americans. 



In the letter to the President, the groups highlighted shared concerns that natural gas exports will raise domestic energy prices, disproportionately harming the middle class and manufacturing, while further exacerbating the climate crisis and leading to more dirty and dangerous fracking and drilling on our nation’s lands. 



The expansion of drilling and fracking will further pollute our air, water and put the health and safety of our communities at additional risk. Expanded drilling will also substantially increase emissions of methane, which is a powerful climate disrupting pollutant that puts the public at risk of worsening climate change. In spite of the many environmental risks, however, DOE has failed to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the national environmental impacts that exports and increased natural gas production would create.

In addition, the U.S. is currently negotiating a new trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with ten nations across the Pacific Rim. Additional countries are considering joining the pact, including Japan—the world's largest natural gas importer. The agreement, in its current form, would leave the Administration unable to condition or deny export licenses to hungry international gas markets in TPP countries, even if those exports would harm public health and the U.S. economy.

In light of these risks and the deficiencies of the DOE’s oversight and review process to date, the group letter urges the Obama Administration to thoroughly study and diligently address the economic, environmental and trade aspects of gas exports before making any final decisions on  proposed export terminals.


For more information on why policymakers and the public need fair analysis and disclosure of the risks of LNG export before deciding whether to allow exports, visit Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas site.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING and LNG pages for more related news on this topic.

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

 

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