by guest blogger Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper
More than 40 years ago, the urgent dangers of man-made climate change became apparent. We’ve spent much of the ensuing years overcoming the misinformation of hired guns paid by fossil fuel companies, who dismiss this massive threat to our civilization.
We don’t have another 40 years to waste. The need to leave untapped fossil fuels in the ground is absolutely critical. Yes, it’s critical to averting the worst consequences of climate change—floods, droughts, and storms—in the future. But it’s also critical to promoting economic growth and human security right now.
The affects of fracked shale gas are a prime example of how a fossil fuel is damaging communities—not decades in the distance but here and now. A fossil fuel made up almost entirely of methane, fracked shale gas is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Widespread use of it will have a long-term impact on the climate. But its extraction and use also have an immediate impact on humans and our environment. Fracking has been proved to cause human sickness, water pollution, air pollution, and the destruction of forests, wetlands, and parks.
Think that’s hyperbole? Think again. Here are just some of the ways fracking has recently devastated communities:
- Drinking water contaminated from shale gas extraction has forced at least 260 communities in Pennsylvania to seek replacement water. Thousands of others have reported contamination but have yet to receive assistance.
- A study found that children of mothers living within 10 miles of gas wells are 30 percent more likely to be born with congenital heart disease and twice as likely to have a neural tube defect as those living farther away.
- Homes that are within 9/10 of a mile of a shale-gas drilling site lose an average of $33,000 in value. Properties burdened by a nearby fracked gas pipeline lose as much as 50 percent of their value.
- States in the midwestern and eastern United States suffer from dramatically more earthquakes because of fracking. As recently as 2008, those areas averaged 21 earthquakes annually. Now that number is at 659.
- About 14 billion gallons of toxic wastewater is created annually. Wastewater from fracking is so contaminated it has no other use—it’s either involved in more fracking or is disposed of in the earth, where it can become a source of future water contamination.
- More than 239 billion gallons of water in the United States taken for fracking have been toxified beyond use. Nearly half of the fracked wells taking this water have been in areas experiencing drought and/or high water stress, hogging the limited supply of freshwater that communities need for drinking, farming, and everyday living. For some communities, this means their streams or wells are running dry. In other areas, farmers are forced to compete with fracking companies in purchasing water, and the prices have been driven to astronomical levels. In Colorado, for example, farmers who used to pay $30 to $100 for an acre-foot of water are unable to match the $3,000 dollars per acre-foot the oil and gas companies are paying.
- Roads have been deeply damaged by fracking. Some roads in Pennsylvania have had $13,000 to $23,000 damage for each well fracked. With 9,000 wells already drilled in the state and more than 10 times that amount anticipated for Pennsylvania by industry, small towns with small budgets are paying a big price for fracking.
We cannot wait four more decades for our political leaders to champion people’s rights to clean water, healthy air, dependable clean energy, and safe food. Future generations are depending on us to protect them from climate change. Current generations are depending on us, too.
Join us in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 24, when the eyes of the world will be upon us with the presence of the Democratic National Convention. March with us for a Clean Energy Revolution when we demand that our political leaders:
- Ban fracking now
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground
- Stop dirty energy
- Justly transition to 100 percent renewable energy.
If we can make our elected leaders see the light today, we can be totally supported by clean energy sources by the year 2050 and become the world’s clean energy leader. We can both protect our communities and supply the technologies, materials, and workers necessary to support clean energy in other nations as we transition to a greener economy.
To learn more, visit cleanenergymarch.org.
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.