If you have not seen the documentary film on the real story of fracking by Josh Fox called Gasland II, which premiered on Monday night on HBO, you need to find the opportunity to watch. Seeing Gasland, his first film, is not a prerequisite, but that is worth watching as well. Fox has blended scientists and fracking experts with local, state and federal officials and the people impacted by fracking into a powerful story line. Below, I will highlight a few takeaways, but I will add to them some thoughts from an excellent piece in the USA Today by Wendy Koch called “High and Dry in Texas” which was printed July 10, 2013. Please note, I will flavor these takeaways with other research and reading I have done over the past 18 months.
Gasland II Takeaways
- The fracking industry has known for some time the flaws in the fracking processes and has numerous internal memoranda and papers that indicate this. This is a key reason, Vice President Dick Cheney, the former President of Halliburton had language inserted in the 2005 Energy Policy Act that exempted frackers from the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and said they did not have to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process.
- The fracking industry employs a highly capable Public Relations firm who has represented the smoking industry and who the fossil fuel industry has employed to dissuade public opinion on climate change. They are responsible for the disinformation campaign to create debate over the issue and the commercials and ads that talk about how “safe and secure” fracking is.
- Per a fracking expert who worked at Schlumberger, the largest fracker in the world, the cement used around the fracking casing to hold in the toxic water and gas fails 5% of the time immediately – he notes with 10,000 wells that is 500 failures and that is what is happening in Pennsylvania. Over time, the fail rate is higher as the pressure of the new processes is much greater than the older methods.
- Per several Congress people, the fossil fuel industry has so much clout that the Congress people echo what they are told by the industry. One Congressman said “the fossil fuel industry owns the Republican Party.” Yet, the trouble goes further, as they also have an unhealthy influence of the Democrats including the President.
- Several former government officials Former Governors Ed Rendell and Tim Ridge of Pennsylvania now represent public relations and lobbying interests for the fracking industry. This is an incestuous business which is unhealthy for us citizens as who is guarding the henhouse?
- The EPA study showed fracking is causing the water to be toxic and the toxins in the water and in people’s bodies are the same as used in fracking fluids. The disappointing part is the EPA was told to stand down on their latest report on Pennsylvania which was not publicized and led to the resignation of Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA who was fighting this battle. The lower level EPA officials said they have been pressured to not pursue these issues, but have told families off the record in PA, fracking is causing their water woes and is found in the unpublicized reports.
- While the President should be commended for his latest push on climate change action, he should be held responsible for his latest blind push into more fracking. This is highly disappointing that he is not more evenhanded in his review of this issue and has allowed the EPA or is responsible for bullying the EPA. This disappoints me to no end.
- A key story to me, of which I was not aware, is the impact of fracking on climate change. I knew once you had obtained the natural gas to burn, while the burning was imperfect, its one saving grace is it is much better than burning coal. A Stanford scientist said that thesis is based on incomplete science. He said burning natural gas does release fewer toxins than burning coal, but when you add in the regularly occurring leakage of methane into the air from the imperfect fracking process, the process is actually worse than burning coal. This comment deserves much study, as the fracking scientists speak of the inability to contain all of the gases released.
- Like Gasland, the people who live on and by fracking sites have been screwed and deserve better. In western states, these people do not even own the mineral rights under their land, so they do not get much compensation at all. This is the real fracking story. These folks have been lied to by the fracking industry, they have been lied to by the state and local officials and they have been betrayed by the EPA and elected officials. When industry masks the impact of what they are doing and the dangers their actions pose to humans, that is criminal.
USA Today Article – High and Dry in Texas
- This piece focuses on the significant droughts in Texas where towns have run out of water. She discusses how climate change appears to have influenced these droughts. Per a study not noted, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did a joint global study on climate change published last spring. The study noted while not all long term weather patterns can be attributed to man-influenced global warming, the evidence showed that climate change had impacted and made the droughts in Texas more severe.
- She also notes the significant amount of fracking done in the state has contributed to the drought. Fracking takes 2 to 6 million gallons of water to frack with per frack. Critics have noted that fracking water is only 1% of the state’s usage, but she cites references that in the fracking areas, that percentage of overall water use for fracking is more like 20%. In other words, in the vicinity of fracking 1/5 of the water used is used for fracking.
- The article notes it is only going to get worse as the planet heats up and more fracking is done in Texas. The problem that she notes and noted in Gasland II about the town of Dish, TX, is the elected officials and industry are not admitting there is a problem. If you don’t admit there is a problem, it is very hard to intervene. And, this is not just in Texas. Frackers and farmers are fighting over water in Kansas, Oklahoma and California.
I would encourage each of you to see these documentary films (at least Gasland II) and read as much as you can about fracking, including this article. If you concur with what I am about to say, please reach out to your state representatives, governors, federal elected officials and let them know of your concerns. My comment is simple. Fracking is not safe and cannot be made safe. The industry knows this and does not want you to know this. And, if you still wonder, go back to my Vice President Dick Cheney comment – if fracking were so safe, why Vice President Cheney did you feel the need to exempt frackers from the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and give them a hall pass on disclosing the chemicals they use in fracking? In trial law, that is called the smoking gun.