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Frackenscience

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The Fracking science is there, but the politico machine is not on the side of We.

In spite of the knowing.
In spite of the science.  
We will have destroyed our mother, our children, ourselves.
The monster is us.  
Kindhearted ignorance.
Greed its doctor.

While Governor Cuomo says he will "make the decision on the science," New Yorkers know this to be a lie. The science already proves- based on U.S. government sponsored studies, and the industry track record- that Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing, also called Unconventional Fracking or Shale Drilling, otherwise known as Fracking, will inevitably cause leaks of methane gas into wells, poison water sources, and release gas and toxic chemicals into ground water and watersheds due to failed cement casings.

Fracking is a process used to extract natural gas by injecting water, sand, and a wide variety of chemical cocktails into the ground. Modern day Fracking is much deeper than conventional Fracking, and entails an L curve of the cement and well casing. Anthony Ingraffea, an expert in the field who has been studying Fracking since 1982, explained some of the problems and logistics of the new unconventional Fracking, at a conference in Nova Scotia in December, 2011. It is much more invasive and prone to dispersed leakage of gas and chemicals into our water sources.

I am supposed to be writing this essay on the protests that took place in Albany and Philadelphia, August 27th and September 20th, respectively. I realize, however, that there are so many FACTS about Fracking that need to be explained, for me to explain WHY we protest. The Fracking science is there, but the politico machine is not on the side of We. 

*FACT #1: Fracking uses  3 – 5 million gallons of water per Frack 

Roughly 65% of the water used for Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania comes from rivers, creeks, and lakes.

There are about 493,000 active natural gas wells that have used Fracking since 1990.

*FACT #2: Toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are known to be used in Fracking and leaking into ground water and into the air.

The Democrats Committee on Energy and Commerce found that "Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act."

The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – are SDWA contaminants and hazardous air pollutants. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five-year period.  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified Benzene as a Class A Carcinogen.  

Variations of leukemia have been linked to Benzene exposure, including: Acute myelogenous leukemia, Acute lymphocytic leukemia, and Chronic myelogenous leukemia.   

*FACT #3: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted fluids used in the natural gas extraction process of Hydraulic fracturing from protections under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act.

The Act also exempts companies drilling for natural gas from disclosing the chemicals involved in Fracking operations that would normally be required under federal clean water laws. The loophole is commonly known as the "Halliburton loophole" since former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney was reportedly instrumental in its passage.

Halliburton is one of the biggest benefactors of the Fracking process.

*FACT #4: Cement Casings Leak 

In 2011 there was a subcommittee formed by Energy Secretary Chu to study the Shale Gas industry, protocol and safety. 

In a study of well casings, safety and violations sponsored by and for the U.S Dept of Energy, there were almost 200 cement casing violations recorded in Pennsylvania alone between 2010-2011.

However, "Decisions about when, how and whether to proceed with our  recommendations are the responsibility of the public and private participants in the process – not the Subcommittee." This means that even the committee's suggestions are just that, suggestions, and the industry is still self-regulated. 

And, "according to Pennsylvania's Acting Deputy Secretary of Oil and Gas Management, Scott Perry, Methane Migration is the most serious issue related to shale gas extraction. Methane migration occurs when an incomplete seal around the well casing allows gas to move towards the surface and possibly contaminate drinking water or the atmosphere."

*FACT #5: Only a small percentage of wells and casings are inspected.

"In Pennsylvania, which has seen an unprecedented boom in natural gas drilling over the last decade, only 9 percent of active wells -- or only about 8,000 of the state's roughly 90,000 active wells -- were inspected."

*FACT #6: The industry itself has also documented the potential hazards of spills and methane migration due to faulty casings.

Surface spills: Chemicals or chemical-laden fluids (such as Fracking fluid, slickwater, or flowback) may spill or leak and seep into the ground surrounding a drill pad or flow into nearby fields and streams. 

Methane migration: Naturally occurring methane may rise from its original home deep underground into upper levels of rock close to the surface. The methane may make its way into the groundwater supply and enter private wells drilled into the aquifer. The DEP has issued fines to gas companies for methane migration, although it is difficult to determine where the methane originated and whether it can be tied to Marcellus Shale drilling. Clearer cases of migration occur when methane rises up the space around the well casing due to faulty cementing procedures.  

*FACT #7: By the year 2025, demand for water will exceed availability by 56%.  (Maude Barlow and Tony Clark, Blue Gold)

And, so, we question – What is being done with OUR water?

Notably, Ingraffea has found the inevitable leaking of methane and contamination of underground water sources by failed casings and cement. He has made this case to Capitol Hill and to the press.  

While Cuomo was apparently waiting for his science to come in, his Department of Environmental Conservation gave the gas industry representatives access to proposed regulations six weeks before the regulations were made public. The industry took advantage to influence these regulations. 

For example, a certain permit requires testing for radioactive contaminants in the water, but "does not propose penalties for drilling companies whose runoff shows radioactivity...the permit does not even specify what level the DEC considers unsafe."

The science is there; the regulations are not.

We have created a monster. 

And, so, we gather.

"Protesting is expensive," my husband notes as we set out for Albany, where we will spend the night in a hotel with our 11-month-old daughter, my mom, and my step-father. It's a trek from Brooklyn; there is gas, lodging, food, and missed work. We are presently not gainfully employed, which makes it either more economical or more expensive, depending in how you look at it.  

We arrive in Albany Sunday night, and on Monday, August 27, we join more than 1,000 people. The crowd included Josh Fox (producer of Gasland), Bill McKibben (founder of 350.org), Sandra Steingraber (brilliant author of Raising Elijah), as well as Debra Winger and some allies from Pennsylvania, and a big group from Protecting Our Waters. We rallied, then marched to the Capital building to tell Cuomo, "Don't Frack New York!" and delivered a pledge of resistance signed by more than 3,000 New Yorkers stating that we will do what is necessary to keep New York from being Fracked.

A few weeks later, as a guest on "Fred Dicker: Live from the State Capitol!" Cuomo had the gall to say, "The pro-hydroFrackers tend to live in the community...the anti-hydroFrackers tend to be more activists."

He is very misinformed. The crowd was overwhelmingly made up of people who live in upstate New York and people from other parts of the state who are worried about the state's welfare. We are all "activists" now.

One of the highlights, along with Debra Winger's earnest and heartfelt speech about the land on which we live, was hearing NY State Senator Tony Avella, ranking member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and author of a Senate bill banning Fracking (S.4220). Senator Avella said it eloquently: "With reports indicating that a decision on allowing hydrofracking in New York State is expected very soon, it is more important than ever to rise up and make our voices heard—hydrofracking is an extremely dangerous drilling practice and cannot be allowed in this state. Residents in other states that have allowed hydrofracking have paid too high a price, with contaminated water, increased seismic activity, crumbling infrastructure and lower property values. New York must learn from the disastrous effects of what hydrofracking has done in neighboring states like Pennsylvania and take the lead in banning this dangerous practice. The battle over hydrofracking has reached a climax and with the health and safety of millions of New Yorkers on the line, it is a battle that we cannot afford to lose."

And, so, we march.

New Yorkers who have known about Fracking have watched neighboring Pennsylvania Frack itself and pollute its land, water, and air. We united in solidarity with Pennsylvanians as well, and on September 20, Pennsylvanian's got together in Philadelphia to rally and protest Fracking at the annual oil and natural gas conference, and to march to Governor Corbett's office in downtown Philly. 1,400 people were counted at the peak of the rally, which means a likely 2,000.

I happen to have close connections, a history, and a home in both states. So my husband, daughter and I joined my mother and step-father in Philly for the rally.

This protest was organized by Protecting Our Waters executive director Iris Marie Bloom. The usual suspects were all there, along with Tammy Manning from Susquehanna, PA, where her water was contaminated with methane and where her granddaughter became violently ill, and many other stories and horrors, but there was still hope because a community of citizens came together across states to help each other.


It was a well-organized protest, with a band and a large police presence. 

I first learned about the hazards of Fracking, chemical pollutants, and rampant leasing of land from my mom, who has a farm in upstate PA, in Fracking Central, Tioga County. We have had that farm- which is 100 acres of life, land, deer, wild turkey, well water, apple trees and a spring-fed pond- for forty years. All the neighbors have leased their land. My mom started researching years ago when someone tried to get her to lease. She refused to lease her land. They kept coming back with a higher offer. Now, she could literally make a million. Fortunately for all of us, she has social security, a pension, and cares for the Earth more than money.

My mother is the reason I am the bearer of hope and purpose, as she has been a tireless fractivist for many years...before anyone knew the dangers. She has gone to countless hearings, protests, and states, given talks, shown films, tried to get communities involved. She has never given up and is a tough act to follow in terms of living one's values. Rather than lease the land we all love, making tons of money– plenty to buy elsewhere- she has stayed and protected our legacy, our sacred woods and wildcats and bears. She is my true inspiration, and when I think about why we protest, as individuals and as a society, we do it because we understand that it is a clear path not only of resistance, but also of change. That, in the act itself, there is hope. And somewhere along the way we have been shown this path. 

And, so, we challenge.

There is clearly a culpable party, having funded multiple studies and having the facts about the detriments of Fracking, permitting the infringements on our "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness." The culpable party, meant to uphold our rights and protect US, is the U.S. government as a whole, inclusive of our president. 

What I am saying is that WE THE PEOPLE can hold our government accountable for the violation of our FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS and the pollution of our water. Perhaps the Halliburton Loophole lets the Gas companies off the hook, but as far as I can tell, our government has not been let off the hook in their culpability of negligence and intentional knowing that in FACT our groundwater is being injected with carcinogens.

OUR GOVERNMENT's own energy and commerce committee found:

"It is deeply disturbing to discover the content and quantity of toxic chemicals, like benzene and lead, being injected into the ground without the knowledge of the communities whose health could be affected," said Rep. DeGette. "Of particular concern to me is that we learned that over the four-year period studied, over one and a half million gallons of carcinogens were injected into the ground in Colorado."

In fact, this previously unpublished material protected as "industry secrets," has been released to the government body of the United States and is knowledge and FACT available to each government member, as well as to all members of our society.

The science is there. The regulations are not.

Our government needs to put regulations in place so we are not poisoned.

The law, in this case, should be on the side of those the constitution was written to protect.  And It wasn't the corporations. 

And, so, we protest. 

And when we wake.  
In spite of the knowing. 
In spite of the science.  
We will have destroyed our mother, our children, ourselves.
The monster is us.

 


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