Gasland – A View of the Real Fracking Story

About this time last year, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Sandra Steingraber speak to a group brought together by Clean Air Carolina and the Catawba Water Conservancy. I had been aware of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and had concerns, but came away with an epiphany. Dr. Steingraber, a biologist, ecologist, bladder cancer survivor and mother of two, has written two books “Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah” and has testified in front of Congress, United Nations and European Union Parliament about the impact of chemicals in the environment. And, she will tell you fracking is one of the worst things we can do on our planet, unless your goal is to poison people. Two days ago, I had a second epiphany on the subject when I saw “Gasland,” a HBO documentary on the real story on fracking.

If you have not seen “Gasland,” I would encourage you to watch it and draw your own conclusions. It was conceived and directed by Josh Fox, who is a resident of Pennsylvania (PA) where fracking abounds. Yet, his film does not focus only on PA, as he travels the country to areas where fracking has been in existence for a few or many years. For those of you who get Time Warner Cable, it is in the free on-demand section of HBO under Feature Film Documentaries as of this writing. The movie is more poignant given its independent, low-budget approach of a young man talking with people whose lives have been changed forever. Of course, he could not talk with people no longer with us or the spokespeople of the companies who made a fortune fracking at the expense of others who elected not to speak with him.

If you do not have time to watch the film and want to get a quick view of the concerns over fracking, you are welcome to click on a post I wrote back on April 22, 2012 called “The Perils of Fracking.” There are some other posts you could check out, but another post written on June 8, 2012 you may want to pay attention to came from Steingraber’s “Living Downstream” which is entitled “The Precautionary Principle.”

I don’t want to take away from the power of Fox’s movie “Gasland.”  These stories need to be seen and heard. These are the real people impacted by fracking that have been purposefully lied to and ignored and until they became a nuisance and were paid a pittance to be quiet as the fracking company moved on. Or, they may have been provided with some make-shift filtering system that could not possibly filter out the danger. I came away sad, mad and disillusioned that our country could let these people down like this. How could our country purposefully pass legislation giving fracking companies a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?

What do I mean by this statement? Our former Vice President Dick Cheney used to be CEO of Halliburton, the pioneer in fracking technology. In addition to having petroleum lobbyists lead the White House Council on the Environment, where they deleted any references to “global warming” or “climate change” in scientific papers, there were two major actions that gave free rein to the fracking companies, one of which was Halliburton. The first came when Cheney helped get a law passed the sold mineral rights on our public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. On our public land, fracking companies now had the right to come in a frack. This land was garnered in large part by Teddy Roosevelt to protect water sheds and create public parks open to the public. As we know, water is kind of important.

The second came as very brief provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 signed by President George W. Bush. Cheney was able to convince a friendly Congress to include a provision in the Act that prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the frackers under the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. And, it was noted the fracking companies did not need to disclose the chemicals they added to the fracking water to make it easier to frack as they reduced friction, killed algae, broke down minerals and deposits.

Please re-read the bold language again as you likely did a double take as I did. You see the fracking water is so poisoned, it cannot be allowed to go back into the water table. But, water finds a way and it does get into the pure water shed. And, among many other toxic chemicals, glycol ethers are present which are as about as harmful chemicals to humans as you can find. According to Dr. Theo Colborn of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange in Colorado (she has degrees in pharmacology, epidemiology, toxicology, and water chemistry), these toxins cause the very maladies that have stricken the people living near fracking sites. And, she adds it is not just the water they drink. These people breathe the air 24×7 which is filled with the toxins released by the water blasted minerals. Ft. Worth, Texas has twice the level of air pollution that would be in evidence by their normal automobile traffic due to the thousands of fracking sites nearby.

Yet, with all of this said, I have even a greater concern over the use of water in the first place. It takes between 4 and 6 million gallons per fracking well per fracking episode. And, I learned from the movie that fracking wells are fracked up to as many as ten times. Water is very dear around the world and in this country. With the droughts in Kansas and Texas this summer, frackers were fighting farmers over water usage. People will say this does not affect them, but for you folks in Florida, your water was being trucked to Kansas to frack with.

At the end of the day, the Oil/ Gas Industry has a powerful lobbying effort and funds politicians in a significant way. That is why I asked you to read “The Precautionary Principle.” We need to do what other countries do and place the onus on the developer who will make the profit to prove that what they are doing is not toxic to humans. Their data, which is used in GOP led legislatures like in NC (who just approved in fracking) and  in wonderful TV commercials with an attractive spokesperson, is biased and misleading at best. These companies have a vested interest in the outcome. To state it simply, fracking is using our water with chemicals harmful to humans to do something. To have it not subjected to Safe Drinking Water Act is not only unethical, it is criminal and immoral.

So, please watch the movie and be diligent against more fracking. Water finds a way. So, do well compensated politicians. We have to be mindful of both.

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14 thoughts on “Gasland – A View of the Real Fracking Story

    • Thanks. It makes your comments about Cheney even more telling. I could not decide if Bush’s legacy was going to be unwinding a budget surplus, going to war under false pretenses, or the horrible Katrina response. This one may top them all as it is so Machiavellian and will be the gift that keeps on giving.

  1. it’s interesting that you and hugh both addressed environmental stories today. living in ecuador, i often see science stories about the melting glaciers in the andes. i don’t hear much about fracking, so i really appreciated this summary.

    the internet is sluggish, so doing lots of research is difficult.. my question is, ‘ what percentage of the people living in those areas are waking up? how many oppose, how many publicly oppose, and how many are indifferent?’ what will it take to make others wake up?

    maybe they’re too busy watching ‘drug tv’ programs that zone them out? sorry, but that’s what i call much of television programs.. they’re like junk food for the brain!

    • Z, I think many were misled that it was and is all a safe way to get at natural gas. As of this writing, there is marvelous commercial paid for by the natural gas industry with nice charts and an attractive spokesperson who talks about how safe it is, the jobs that are created and becoming energy independent. Yet, people who live it now, realize they have been lied to and are suffering. With the states who have GOP legislatures, they are looking at fracking as a money maker without investigating fully the problems it causes as the industry feeds it data that says it is safe. This is the same old story in a different book. Please spread the word. Many thanks, BTG

      • I think people forget one thing. When the money is too good to be true, there is usually a catch. “Sir and Ma’am would you mind if we frack beneath your land. We will pay you $100,000 for the rights and you won’t notice a thing…..Sure it’s safe. We wouldn’t be doin it otherwise.” One of the interesting parts of Gasland, is the people on the rig did not know the full danger as their supervisors did not know.

      • so many different issues all come back to trusting those that we elected to take care of our best interests, and they drop the ball.. no, they don’t drop the ball, they take the ball to the other side of the court. it all goes back to the money, doesn’t it? so very sad. and so sad that people are still very trusting and later find out that they’ve been wronged. again.
        z

      • You are right, Z. People think what Erin Brockovich did was an isolated incidence. Truth is we need hundreds, maybe thousands, of Erin Brockovich’s to fight for those screwed over by corporations who have impunity. Thanks, BTG

  2. Good post. I’ve seen the TV commercials and often mute them, or change the station. Fracking is scary because of all the chemicals that they use and that companies try to keep secret.

  3. Great post, BTG. I have been wanting to see that documentary – my mom’s side of the family lives in central PA and this has been a hige issue in their communities. Of course, many people are happy about the economic boom that comes along with it, which is obviously what makes it so controversial. This has alse been a huge deal in Colorado. With the droughts and lack of water we have out here…aka wildfires, it is amazing that people don;t connect the dots more on this issue. Thanks for another excellent post!!

    • Thanks for writing. My guess is the boon is to people who don’t have to drink the water and breathe the air everyday. Please do check it out. It is in Colorado as well.

  4. Pingback: Gasland Part Two – Continues to beat the real fracking story drum | musingsofanoldfart

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