EPA NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU ABOUT ITS FRACKING AND DRINKING WATER STUDY! Comments due Friday, August 28th.
In June, EPA released its nearly 1,000 page study of hydraulic fracturing impacts on drinking water. Many of you have probably seen media reports on the study’s major conclusion: “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” In fact, reading any chapter of the study, you can see that this carefully structured statement is actually misleading the public. FrackFree NC’s review team found that there is far too little known by EPA and scientists to say that there aren’t “widespread, systemic impacts.”
If you want to comment on the EPA Assessment but don’t want to read through 1,000 pages, we’ve got a solution for you! A team of FrackFreeNC’s more technical folks have read though chapters in detail and written short, plain English comments that you can put in your own words and use to submit your own comments. Please submit your comments, “pasted in” and as an attachment, to the following email address: Docket_OEI@epa.gov IMPORTANT: include Docket number EPA-HQ-OA-2015-0245 in your subject line.
If you’re not very familiar with fracking, here’s a short, useful summary of Chapter 2 of this report!
Links to short talking points on each chapter of the report:
By Peggy Wert
Originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Stokes News, July 23, 2015
I just returned from a trip to Doddrige County, West Virginia where I was able to see firsthand what fracking (hydraulic fracturing) is like. My first impression was ‘Oh my god, please don’t let this happen to NC’. I immediately noted how overwhelmingly invasive the whole operation is. It was like kudzu that once it takes hold it covers everything.
Like NC, West Virginia is beautiful, lush, and green with an abundance of wildlife and picturesque mountain streams. But it has been raped by the oil/gas industry leaving ugly scares and open festering wounds across its landscape.
I’ve been following fracking issues for a while and knew there would be a lot of fracking activity in WV, but not to the extent that we saw. I expected to see many pipelines, for instance. But it seemed there was a pipeline right-a-way just about every mile. They were cleared 50 foot-wide right-a-ways forming a spider web across the county. Then there were the fracking well pads, compressor stations, pigging station (access points to clean the pipelines), extraction plants, holding ponds, and holding tanks just to name a few of the things that go along with fracking. And the size of each one of these structures was double or triple the size of what I thought they would be. There was no distance more than a city block that didn’t have something.
This area of WV has had conventional oil and gas drilling operations for years. Most of the people we talked to had wells on their property and received free gas as a result. Most would agree that’s not a bad thing. But there is a BIG, and I mean BIG, difference between conventional gas drilling and fracking. Visually, the difference in size of the two operations is immense. Most conventional wells, that we saw, were a few pipes coming out of the ground with a small tank a few feet away. This covered an area no more than 20 by 30 feet. The fracking well pads on the other hand took up multiple acres and had huge access roads leading to them. Of course the difference in damage to the environment and communities are enough to fill a book.
Then if the above isn’t bad enough, we had to constantly stop our car to allow trucks to pass. Like Stokes County, their roads were not designed for the volume and size of the truck traffic needed to support fracking (over 1,000 heavy trucks per well per frack). As a result the roads have to be repaired about every month. Accidents were common.
The impact kept mounting. As we drove around we would get hit with a wave of obnoxious fumes. I can’t imagine living next to something constantly emitting toxic air. The noise from the well pads, compressor stations and extraction stations was like living next to an airport with jet engines running 24/7. There were many “man-camps” where out-of-area workers lived in campers for temporary housing.
Badly eroded steep mountainside cuts for pipelines, often from two or three drilling companies. Photo by Peggy Wert.
All of this was very depressing and disturbing, but most disturbing was the lack of regulations and no enforcement or inspections. The oil industry has free range to do as they please. Our hosts for the visit told us about everything from improperly marked trucks, to the lack of vents in the pipelines (needed to release pressure), to contaminated water wells, to well explosions with fatalities that resulted to no action from regulators. Unfortunately our current NC rules and regulations look like they will offer us no better protection.
My final observation was the impact to their economy and quality of life. Our legislators push the bills to allow fracking because it would bring jobs to NC. But based on what I saw, very few West Virginians reaped the benefits. Most of the jobs were held by outsiders. The drillers and other industry- specific companies bring their own crews and even jobs like truck drivers are mostly out-of-area hires. The main benefit to the economy was to restaurants and other service industries. Some local entrepreneurs would install facilities to lease their property for man-camps. The downside to the economy far outweighed the good. The industry takes over like slime mold killing the quality of life for locals. Roads and traffic were terrible. A normal ten minute trip could take 30 minutes due to the truck traffic. First responders were relegated to traffic control in an emergency because they are not trained or equipped to handle oil/gas situations. Our host told of one local that had her well contaminated but said nothing because she felt she couldn’t fight city hall or in this case the gas industry.
In all, my trip was very enlightening and depressing. If NC is fracked, it will change life as we know it.
Peggy Wert, Danbury
Come out to celebrate, learn, and strategize! The fracking permit moratorium was lifted by NC Legislature, but lawsuits, lousy gas prices, and statewide resistance have turned the rush-to-frack to a fizzle. This event will have live music, workshops on citizen monitoring, a potluck lunch, an update on where fracking stands in NC, and time to socialize! Please RSVP!
Show up anytime after 10 AM. Program starts at 11 AM.
We will be at Shelter #1, near the Upper Cascades Falls. Park at the Upper Parking Lot. Here is a map of the park. Please note that we will be in the enlarged portion of this map.
Clean Water for NC, Working Films, Appalachian Voices, and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League are joining forces to bring you a feisty program of excellent short films, the latest fracking developments in NC and more on how we can keep building the resistance! “Fracking Stories” features clips that explore the public health and environmental consequences of fracking and the ways that communities are coming together to protect themselves. We hope you’ll join us for one of the upcoming events!
Wednesday, June 17, Salisbury
Rowan Public Library, 201 W Fisher St. (Directions)
Co-sponsored by CWFNC and Working Films
For a full calendar of the tour visit Working Films’ blog.
When we think of the vulnerable people who won’t be able to move away from the impacts of fracking on their health, environment and community, we often forget about the children! They are least likely to be informed about the potential effects of fracking, and don’t have the freedom or resources to choose another place to live. Babies and kids are even more vulnerable than adults to respiratory, neurological and hormone disrupting effects of chemicals used or released by drilling and fracking, as well as the stress of round the clock industrial noise or threats from transient worker camps.
Jenn Weaver, our Water and Energy Researcher, has produced a mini-report summarizing key results of some studies on fracking and kids for your use in outreach to neighbors and public officials. Sometimes talking about our kids will open hearts and minds in a way that science just can’t do.
Some highlights of “Fracking Our Kids’ Future”:
1. Setback distances for oil and gas operations in many states allow them to be within a few hundred feet from schools and homes. Air emissions at playgrounds and in Texas and Colorado have been found to exceed safe levels of benzene, methylene chloride and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Potential acute health effects include respiratory, neurological symptoms, and long term effects include developmental delays and cancer.
2. Health professionals in Vernal, Utah noted that infant deaths rose to six times above normal in a span of just three years that coincided with the fracking boom.
3. A study of nearly 125,000 births in Colorado showed a consistent relationship between proximity to oil and gas operations within 10 miles and prevalence of congenital heart defects. The effect was stronger when the density of active oil or gas wells increased and the distance to wells decreased.
4. In areas of intense fracking operations, a significant increase in assaults and trafficking of girls has been documented. This often happens through abduction. An estimated 70% of girls in the sex trade were recruited at age 13 or 14.
For the full report, “Fracking Our Kids’ Future”, click here.
Help us kick off the Fracking Stories film tour and the opening reception of the Water Warriors Multimedia Exhibit, portraying an indigenous Canadian community as they take on the oil and gas industry. Wine & Hors d’oeuvres will be served.
Tuesday, May 19, 6:30-8:30PM – Water Warriors Public Reception & Fracking Stories Screening Chatham Mills, 480 Hillsboro St, Pittsboro
“Fracking Stories” features six short documentaries that explore the public health and environmental consequences of fracking and the ways that communities are coming together to protect themselves
Support House Bill 586: Ban Forced Pooling
The 1945 Oil and Gas Law makes “forced pooling” of landowners who don’t wish to lease their land for gas extraction legal in NC, but the law does not say when or how forced pooling can happen! So landowners can’t be sure that their property rights will be protected at all. The NC House of Representatives could begin debating House Bill 586
this week in the House Environment Committee
, but only if we urge them to do so!
The bill would ban forced pooling in North Carolina and take additional steps to protect landowners from unwanted activity on their property, now that the legislature has lifted the moratorium on fracking permits.
Please contact your Representative by Wednesday at noon to ask them to support House Bill 586! You can also ask your own County Commission Chairman to contact Representatives to ask for their support. Remember: this is not a bill to prevent fracking, so please don’t talk to your Representative as if it would. Instead, emphasize the importance of this bill to protect landowner rights.
Want to learn more about forced pooling? Watch this 10 minute video Forced Pooling 101, by the Rural Advancement Foundation International. Encourage your legislators to watch it too!
Passing House Bill 586 would solve the problem and ban forced pooling in North Carolina!
Comments are due to FERC by April 28th!
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed new pipeline to transport gas from fracked areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is the agency responsible for granting the pipeline the right to begin construction and use eminent domain. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is currently in a “scoping period” where FERC determines the “scope of work” for creating an Environmental Impact Statement. During this period, it is important to raise every question or concern that people have about the pipeline.
-negative impacts the pipeline might have to your or your neighbor’s properties, if applicable.
-negative impacts to the region, such as increased risks of accidents, impacts on air quality, noise pollution.
-request that FERC assess the cumulative impacts of all existing and proposed pipelines in the region, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Transco pipeline, and their related infrastructure such as compressor stations.
-increased extraction and fracking in upstream communities.
-investing in infrastructure for fossil fuels will delay the transition to renewable energy.
-this pipeline, as well as the entire pipeline system, is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.
For more ideas on what to comment on, go here.
Comment to FERC by April 28th by clicking here. Be sure to use the correct Docket Number: PF15-6
I traveled in March to Greene, Washington and Butler Counties in southwest PA to do research, stopping in Pittsburgh to attend a conference on the impacts of extraction industries. Wow! Once I crossed the border into Pennsylvania, I knew something had changed. Immediately, I saw billboards from Range Resources or Rice Energy promoting shale gas jobs and benefits.
Nicole’s photo of a drill rig in the Pennsylvania landscape.
When I left the highway, I was bombarded with compressor stations, pipeline construction and well pads. Even though I knew these counties have lots of wells and drilling, actually seeing it with my own eyes was shocking. Except for the gas development, these areas look just like parts of NC, with smaller, rolling hills, but the landscape feels like NC’s Appalachian region. There are small towns, the roads are winding, and there are lots of beautiful farms and cattle operations. The promises of wealth that the industry touts were not in view, however, with lots of dilapidated homes in sight.
The Center for Coalfield Justice and the Izaak Walton League Harry Enstrom chapter work extensively with citizens who are experiencing impacts from shale gas fracking as well as longwall coal mining, which has a long history in the region. Gas drilling is just the latest in a stream of extractive industries impacting the region, with valleys filled with coal mining refuse and water quality degraded by acid mine drainage. Most of Greene and Washington Counties have underground coal mining, with the largest coal preparation plant in North America on 3000 acres. As I drove around, the truck traffic was heavy and the little hamlets were abuzz with noise. We saw a school right across from a fracking well pad. It was actually heartbreaking and also inspiring to talk to those living and working to fight this development.
A billboard in southwest Pennsylvania; photo by Nicole Delcogliano.
The Connoquenessing Township in Butler County, north of Pittsburgh, has active wells and new pipeline construction. I attended a community meeting designed to educate community members about their rights as landowners, as pipelines are being constructed, and to hear community members speak about impacts they were experiencing from well drilling. It was right out of Gasland, with one older gentleman bringing samples of his fouled spring water from pipeline construction, saying he hoped it would clear up. Community members were confused and bewildered as they learned about potential impacts and tried to understand their rights (or lack thereof) in facing eminent domain.
I interviewed members of Marcellus Outreach Butler, Section 27 and Mars Parent group, all active in Butler County’s anti-fracking movement. As they shared their stories, I was so impressed by the time and energy they dedicate to keeping their community’s residents, air and water safe. It takes a lot to combat a large industry with deep pockets, but by working at the local level they are making progress.
A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in late 2013 reinstates the ability of local governments to use zoning and planning to protect residential areas from industrial activity. As in NC, many rural areas in PA do not have ordinances or zoning, so are working to develop them now. There is a deep sense that government and regulatory agencies are not working for the best interests of citizens, and that residents must work to hold the government accountable to its public duties.
While shocking, my experiences inspired me to share what groups and citizens have done already to resist fracking in PA with folks in NC who are working to prevent fracking from happening here!
Offshore drilling comments due Monday, March 30
Offshore oil and gas drilling? Make your voice heard!
Offshore drilling proposed for the mid-Atlantic would put the NC coast at risk for an environmental disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. It could harm tourism, fishing, and other coastal industries which are the economic backbone of coastal communities. Regulations haven’t changed since the BP Disaster — there is still the same weak oversight and safeguards.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to examine the impacts of drilling off the NC coast. YOUR COMMENTS can make a difference! Comments are due Monday, March 30th. Some points you can make:
- More scientific study is urgently needed to understand the impacts offshore drilling could have on the NC coast before any permitting is considered!
- We need to evaluate the impact of an oil spill contaminating NC beaches and estuaries, and on fish and other wildlife living in the potential drilling areas.
- The Environmental Impact Statement must also look at the economic impacts offshore drilling would have on socioeconomically vulnerable coastal communities, learning from the tragic example of Gulf communities after the BP Disaster!
To submit your comments online, go to http://regulations.gov. In the search tab, type in Docket ID: Boem-2014-0085, then click on the “Comment Now!” button.
Tell your state legislators you support clean energy!
“Free” North Carolina from fracking with the power of the sun!
There ARE alternatives to fracked gas, but we need policies in North Carolina to support them! House Bill 245, which has rare bipartisan support in the General Assembly, would allow “third party” sales of electricity, promoting rooftop solar panels and allowing all households to cheaply generate their own energy without having to buy it from Duke Energy!
Find your representative’s contact info here and ask them to support House Bill 245, the “Energy Freedom Act,” to help “free” North Carolinians from fracking and other costly, water-intensive fossil fuels.