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Poll Showing Widespread Support for Fracking Ban in New York

Syracuse, NY  – Residents and leaders of organizations from across Central New York held a press conference today, speaking to Governor Cuomo’s wise decision to ban fracking and thank him for listening to the science and protecting the drinking water and health of all New Yorkers. Residents across Central New York – and all of New York State – are ecstatic with Governor Cuomo’s courageous decision. They also noted that New Yorkers have been following the science on fracking, which is why a Quinnipiac University poll yesterday showed New Yorkers support Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking by 55 percent to 25 percent, including 56 percent to 30 percent upstate.  The groups also discussed the opportunities that lie ahead for renewable energy and efficiency and making New York into the renewable energy capital of the nation.

The administration’s decision to ban fracking protects public health and prevents New York from being negatively impacted by the inevitable air pollution, water contamination and other environmental, health and safety hazards associated with fracking, standing on firm ground with a compelling amount of scientific study to support it.

Renee Vogelsang of Frack Action, a Syracuse resident and also a spokesperson for New Yorkers Against Fracking, said, “We sincerely thank the Governor and his administration for banning fracking in New York! Governor Cuomo held to his word and listened to the science on fracking. Governor Cuomo wisely listened to the science and courageously stood up to the toxic oil and gas industry. This decision protects our local economy and homes from air and water contamination, our farms from dangerous pollution, and future generations. As the science overwhelmingly demonstrates, fracking is not and cannot be done safely.”

“On behalf of Elected Officials to Protect New York, a network of over 850 elected officials in all 62 counties of New York State, we would like to thank the Governor for his strong leadership in protecting the health and safety of our constituents and all New Yorkers by banning fracking,” said Syracuse City Councilor At-Large Kathleen Joy. “This holiday season Governor Cuomo gave us the gift of protecting our clean water, and we are truly grateful.”

Jessica Azulay of Alliance for a Green Economy, a Syracuse resident, said, “On behalf of Alliance for a Green Economy, thank you to Governor Cuomo for listening to the science, for listening to the health professionals, and for listening to the people of New York who stood up for themselves and their neighbors. We are grateful. We are emboldened. We are eager to work with Governor Cuomo and in our own communities to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy, to protect our water, our air, and our ecosystems, provides good jobs, and builds prosperity for all New Yorkers. We can help renewable energy jobs grow exponentially if we find ways to further empower people and communities to change their relationship to energy, to replace their appliances and their lightbulbs, to weatherize their homes, to take power, literally, into their own hands, by harnessing renewables on their own rooftops and farms, and their own community spaces.”

Background:

The New York State Department of Health’s review found “significant public health risks” associated with fracking.

New York State’s health and scientific community has also pointed to a significant and rapidly growing body of evidence showing risks and harms of fracking. The independent experts group Concerned Health Professionals of New York has released a Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking, a 103 page summary of the evidence with 448 citations.

Two weeks ago, Physicians, Scientists & Engineers (PSE) for Healthy Energy released an analysis of the approximately 400 peer-reviewed studies to date on the impacts of fracking and shale gas development, which showed the overwhelming majority of scientific studies indicate either serious negative impacts or risks. Specifically, the PSE Healthy Energy analysis showed:

  • 96% of all papers published on health impacts indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
  • 87% of original research studies published on health outcomes indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
  •  95% of all original research studies on air quality indicate elevated concentrations of air pollutants.
  • 72% of original research studies on water quality indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination.
  • There is an ongoing expansion in the number of peer-reviewed publications on the impacts of shale and tight gas development: approximately 73% of all available scientific peer-reviewed papers have been published in the past 24 months, with a current average of one paper published each day.

It became clear to health professionals and scientists that scientific studies of the environmental and health dangers related to fracking have begun to emerge in a substantial way. Their findings were alarming, showing health and environmental impacts and leaving unanswered questions about the extent of even further risks.

EPA Finds Loophole to ‘Halliburton’ Fracking Loophole

One of the things you’ll hear among anti-fracking activists, is how the gas and oil industry has managed to get around the Safe Drinking Act and the Clean Water Act with a loophole which exempts regulation and disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking.

The EPA may have found a loophole to the loophole.

Monday, in a joint press release, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that XTO Energy Inc. (XTO), a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and the nation’s largest holder of natural gas reserves, will spend an estimated $3 million to restore eight sites damaged by unauthorized discharges of fill material into streams and wetlands in connection with hydraulic fracturing operations. XTO will also implement a comprehensive plan to comply with federal and state water protection laws at the company’s oil and gas extraction facilities in West Virginia that use horizontal drilling methods.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”450px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”the company will pay a civil penalty of $2.3 million for violations”[/dropshadowbox]

“The extraction of domestic energy resources is vitally important, and so it is equally important that companies ensure that all such activities comply with the nation’s environmental laws,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement will resolve allegations that XTO’s illegal discharges of fill materials damaged streams and wetlands, by requiring the company to pay a penalty, restore the damaged resources where possible and take other mitigation and compliance measures.”

The company will pay a civil penalty of $2.3 million for violations of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and West Virginia law. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act prohibits the filling or damming of wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waters of the United States without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The Clean Water Act requires a company to obtain a permit prior to discharging dredge or fill material into wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waters of the United States.

See Related Story: Scientists Develop New Tool to Track Fracking Pollution

The settlement also resolves alleged violations of state law asserted by WVDEP. The state of West Virginia is a co-plaintiff in the settlement and will receive half of the $2.3 million civil penalty.

“American communities expect EPA and our state partners to make sure energy development is done responsibly,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case will help to protect clean water in West Virginia, and support a level playing field for energy developers that play by the rules.”

The federal government and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) allege that the company impacted streams and discharged sand, dirt, rocks and other fill material into streams and wetlands without a federal permit in order to construct well pads, road crossings, freshwater pits, and other facilities related to natural gas extraction. The alleged violations being resolved by today’s settlement occurred at eight sites located in the West Virginia Counties of Harrison, Marion and Upshur. The federal government and WVDEP allege that the violations impacted more than 5,300 linear feet of stream, and 3.38 acres of wetlands.

The settlement requires that the company fully restore the wetlands and streams wherever feasible, monitor the restored sites to assure the success of the restoration, and implement a comprehensive compliance program to ensure future compliance with the Clean Water Act and applicable state law.

The EPA discovered some of the violations through information provided by the state and through routine joint inspections conducted with the Corps, who actively supported the EPA and the Justice Department in this case. In addition, the company voluntarily disclosed potential violations at five of the sites following an internal audit. Beginning in 2011, EPA issued administrative compliance orders for violations at all eight sites. Since that time, the company has been working with EPA to correct the violations and restore those sites in full compliance with EPA’s orders.

What You Need To Know About US-China Fracking Agenda

Washington, DC – In response to today’s joint announcement between the United States and China to reduce their countries’ respective carbon emissions, Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch released the following statement on behalf of Americans Against Fracking

“The newly announced carbon emission targets between the United States and China again ignore the detrimental effects of methane on the climate. Attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions often ignore that methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide. And on top of that, the fracking process releases much more methane than the United States government even realizes, due to loopholes allowing oil and gas companies to self-report whatever they like, while hiding critical data which makes effective regulation of fracking impossible. The massive amount of methane released from the fracking process will do more damage to the climate in a shorter amount of time, we will reach climate tipping points even faster, making it even more difficult to turn back the damage we have already done.”

“The United States and China are two of the most important countries in the fight against climate change, yet today’s announcement reflects nothing more than the continued promotion of fracking under the guise of climate progress that we have seen time and time again from the Obama Administration. The United States has positioned natural gas, and the methane it produces, as a bridge fuel, and incentivizes the increased production of natural gas in its proposed rules for power plants to reduce their carbon emissions. Methane is a carbon emission too. Promoting natural gas, and the fracking that inevitably comes with it, will serve to detract from investment and production of truly renewable and clean energy that would actually serve to help solve the climate crisis.”

Scientists Develop New Tool to Track Fracking Pollution

DURHAM, N.C. – Scientists have developed new geochemical tracers that can identify hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that have been spilled or released into the environment.

The tracers, which were created by a team of U.S. and French researchers, have been field-tested at a spill site in West Virginia and downstream from an oil and gas brine wastewater treatment plant in Pennsylvania.

“This gives us new forensic tools to detect if ‘frac fluids’ are escaping into our water supply and what risks, if any, they might pose,” said Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh, who co-led the research.

[Tweet “Activist’s new weapon against fracking: tracking the leaks; exposing the source of contamination #banfracking”]

“By characterizing the isotopic and geochemical fingerprints of enriched boron and lithium in flowback water from hydraulic fracturing, we can now track the presence of frac fluids in the environment and distinguish them from wastewater coming from other sources, including conventional oil and gas wells,” Vengosh said.

Wastewater tanks at a spill site in West Virginia. Photo Credit: Avner Vengosh/NSF

Wastewater tanks at a spill site in West Virginia. Photo Credit: Avner Vengosh/NSF

Using the tracers, scientists can determine where fracturing fluids have or haven’t been released to the environment and, ultimately, help identify ways to improve how shale gas wastewater is treated and disposed.

Vengosh and his colleagues published their peer-reviewed findings October 20 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Their study, which was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, is the first to report on the development of the boron and lithium tracers.

Nathaniel R. Warner, Obering Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College, was lead author of the study. “This new technology can be combined with other methods to identify specific instances of accidental releases to surface waters in areas of unconventional drilling,” he said. “It could benefit industry as well as federal and state agencies charged with monitoring water quality and protecting the environment.”

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”600px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]“This gives us new forensic tools to detect if ‘frac fluids’ are escaping into our water supply and what risks, if any, they might pose,” said Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh.[/dropshadowbox]

Hydraulic fracturing fluids, or frac fluids, typically contain mixes of water, proprietary chemicals and sand. Mixtures can vary from site to site. Drillers inject large volumes of the fluids down gas wells at high pressure to crack open shale formations deep underground and allow natural gas trapped within the shale to flow out and be extracted. After the shale has been fractured, the frac fluids flow back up the well to the surface along with the gas and highly saline brines from the shale formation.

[Tweet “Could new ‘fracfluid’ tracing tool mean fracking industry can no longer hide behind EPA loophole? #banfracking”]

Some people fear that toxic frac fluid chemicals in this flowback could contaminate nearby water supplies if flowback were accidentally spilled or insufficiently treated before being disposed of.

A disposal site in western Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Nathaniel Warner/NSA

A disposal site in western Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Nathaniel Warner/NSA

“The flowback fluid that returns to the surface becomes a waste that needs to be managed,” Vengosh explained. “Deep-well injection is the preferable disposal method, but injecting large volumes of wastewater into deep wells can cause earthquakes in sensitive areas and is not geologically available in some states. In Pennsylvania, much of the flowback is now recycled and reused, but a significant amount of it is still discharged into local streams or rivers.”

Vengosh said it’s possible to identify the presence of frac fluid in spilled or discharged flowback by tracing synthetic organic compounds that are added to the fluid before it’s injected down a well. But the proprietary nature of these chemicals, combined with their instability in the environment, limits the usefulness of such tracers.

By contrast, the new boron and lithium tracers remain stable in the environment. “The difference is that we are using tracers based on elements that occur naturally in shale formations,” Vengosh said.

Find 'Fraccidents" near you with interactive map. Image Courtesy: EarthJustice.org

Find ‘Fraccidents” near you with interactive map. Image Courtesy: EarthJustice.org

When drillers inject frac fluids into a shale formation, they not only release hydrocarbon but also boron and lithium that are attached to clay minerals within the formation, he explained. As the fluids react and mix at depth, they become enriched in boron and lithium. As they are brought back to the surface, they have distinctive isotopic fingerprints that are different from other types of wastewater, including wastewater from a conventional gas or oil well, as well as from naturally occurring background water.

“This type of forensic research allows us to clearly delineate between the possible sources of wastewater contamination,” Vengosh said.

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Fracking Drill Bit Campaign Accused of ‘Pinkwashing’

Houston, TX – Baker Hughes, an oilfield services company, is being accused of ‘pinkwashing’ with a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and creating 1,000 hot pink drill bits for their “Doing Our Bit for the Cure” campaign.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”400px” height=”” background_color=”#4099ff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Environmental activist organization, 350.org, tweeted yesterday: “This #fracking company is trying to #pinkwash their image w/ PINK FRACKING DRILL BITS”[/dropshadowbox]

Partnering with the Susan G. Komen Foundation gives companies the rights to use the pink ribbon and the specific shade of pink with their products. According to the Komen Foundation’s web site, individuals supporting their corporate partners is a decision of “supporting businesses that care.”

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”650px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”As a consumer, every purchase decision you make is a choice. And, when you choose to support a business that has partnered with Komen, we know you are making a conscious effort to contribute to our mission to end breast cancer.” – Susan G. Komen Foundation[/dropshadowbox]

Baker Hughes announced on their web site they are donating $100,000 to the Komen Foundation. As a part of their pink campaign, Baker Huges will distribute a total of 1,000 pink drill bits worldwide. According to their web site, “The pink bits serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening, and education to help find the cures for this disease.”

Baker Hughes describes itself as “a leading supplier of oilfield services, products, technology and systems to the worldwide oil and natural gas industry.” Baker Hughes provides drill bits used for hydraulic fracturing among other products.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. The process uses several toxic and carcinogenic chemicals which environmentalists claim may leak into the ground and also makes the millions of gallons of water used in the injection process undrinkable.

Benzene is one of the chemicals reported to used in fracking, which is known to contribute to causing breast cancer in laboratory animals. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, benzene is associated with breast cancer in women at a modest level, and studies show that young male workers exposed to it have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Public awareness of the potential dangers of fracking increased after GaslandTheMovie was produced and distributed in screenings throughout the United States.

In 2011, Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report, “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing,” which found that, between 2005 and 2009, 14 leading oil and gas companies used over 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and components, including benzene a known carcinogen.

The report found that between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Martin Craighead, chairman and chief executive officer of Baker Hughes, will present a check to Nancy G. Brinker, chair of global strategy and founder of Susan G. Komen, just prior to the final Pittsburgh Steelers National Football League “pink-out game” on Sunday, October 26, 2014, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.