by guest blogger Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper
Across the nation, communities are standing up for their rights to pure water, clean air, and a healthy environment.
People are banding together to champion for:
- Their right to have safe drinking water in their homes that is free from contamination.
- Their right to shower safely in their homes without risk of explosion from combustible gases in their water.
- Their right to enjoy their private property and not have it taken through eminent domain.
- Their right to experience the beauty of public open spaces safe from pollution and degradation.
- Their right to fish local creeks and rivers without fear that the fish have been contaminated by pollution.
One of the biggest challengers to these rights is the fracked shale gas industry.
Every week, the body of science on the harms of drilling and fracking grows. There are now more than 580 peer-reviewed articles examining the environmental and human health harms of shale gas extraction. Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, award-winning and nationally recognized expert on shale gas extraction, has analyzed these studies and noted that, “94 percent find harmful impacts to human health, 69 percent find harmful impacts on water quality, and 88 percent find harmful impacts to air quality.”
One of the newest reports shows what would happen if the moratorium against shale gas extraction in the Delaware River watershed were lifted and just 4,000 wells were drilled. CNA Analysis and Solutions, an independent group of scientists and researchers, determined that if these wells were drilled, there would be a cascade of negative events that would jeopardize the drinking water, air quality, forests, and health of Upper Delaware River communities.
Some of the potential impacts of fracking in the Delaware River watershed include:
- Increases in dangerous strontium and barium in the water by up to 500 percent, even if drilling is done in total compliance with state regulations.
- Depletion of crucial stream flows of up to 70 percent in small streams in the Delaware River Basin during times of low flow, a time when the critters and communities need those waters the most.
- Increases in land erosion by up to 150 percent during construction with an increase of up to 15 percent during day-to-day drilling operations.
- Depletion of underground aquifers, which feed both our streams and groundwater wells.
- Increases of 4 to 5.8 billion cubic feet of methane to the atmosphere each year.
And yet, politicians still defend fracking, claiming the need for a bridge to get us to clean and renewable energy technologies. The truth is, we already have that bridge with solar, wind, geothermal, and other clean energy technologies.
So let’s put our politicians to the test. Here’s a list of environmental issues and the questions you can use when speaking with politicians to see where they stand.
1. Health and Safety: Thousands of individuals have seen their health deteriorate, their drinking water impacted, and/or their safety jeopardized because of fracking wells and fracked gas infrastructure.
Ask your politicians: What is your position on ensuring that people have a right to safe drinking water from their household faucets—water free of contamination and toxins from the shale gas industry?
2. Property Rights: Property owners are increasingly having their land forcibly taken by eminent domain (or with the threat of eminent domain as leverage) for construction of pipelines to carry fracked gas and gas liquids. They suffer property damage, loss of property value, degradation of the land, and living in fear that a pipeline explosion or accident could cause harm to their families or themselves.
Ask your politicians: Do you oppose the use of eminent domain for fracked gas pipelines and associated compressors or LNG facilities?
3. Methane Leakage and Climate Change: A growing number of studies are finding that the leakage of methane into the atmosphere is more pervasive and significant than had been believed, that drilling and fracking are a significant source of methane, and that methane is 86 times more powerful than CO2 over the first 20 years for its climate-changing impacts.
Ask your politicians: Given this evidence, do you agree that drilling and fracking for shale threatens the future safety of communities that will be adversely affected by the floods, drought, and other extreme events associated with climate change?
4. Trans-Pacific Partnership: There is strong opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade proposal for a variety of reasons, one being it will allow companies to secure automatic approval for the export of fracked gas to foreign countries with free trade status. Another reason people oppose it is TPP will give corporations the power to challenge state and federal environmental protection laws (for example, local, state, or regional bans on fracking) that the companies claim impede their ability to make profits.
Ask your politicians: Do you support or oppose the TPP?
Maya K. van Rossum is the Delaware Riverkeeper, and has led the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) since 1994. The DRN is a regional nonprofit advocacy organization that monitors the river and all of its tributaries for threats and challenges, and advocates, educates, and litigates for protection, restoration, and change.