Where is the rage in America over fracking? In some countries anti-fracking protests have gained widespread attention, and there are even protest encampments lasting for months at a time. Is anything like that happening in the U.S.? If the Sierra Club-sponsored meeting I attended this evening is any sign, Americans are asleep. Maybe we’re too addled by NCAA basketball tournaments or celebrities in the hospital with heart conditions?
This evening the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club held what should have been an important public education meeting about Fracking. They brought Michael Thornton, a senior organizer in the California Sierra Club, for an educational lecture on hydraulic fracturing and especially the risks to California. Every Californian should be alarmed by Fracking because of the tendency to induce earthquakes.
California Gov. Jerry Brown is someone you’d expect to be against Fracking. During his first go-around as California Governor, 30+ years ago, he pushed for and enacted many environmental measures. His current tenure as Governor has seen many more environmental gains, and he likes to paint himself as a Climate Leader. Thornton had worked as News Director of a Radio Station during Browns previous tenure, and said the Governor is not the same man today as he was back in the day.
Gov. Brown is a big supporter of Fracking. But, as Thornton put it, “Climate Leaders Don’t Frack.”
Thornton gave us a great overview of hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing, and its negative environmental effects. The focus was on California, the fracking already occurring here, and the plans for expanding fracking in California. The meeting hoped to inspire the audience to take action. The primary suggestion was raising pressure on State Sen. Jerry Hill to switch his vote on SB1132. That bill that would extend the study requirements enacted last year in SB4.
California is moving forward with approving fracking operations despite various unfulfilled requirements, such as an environmental impact report. EIR’s absolutely required before major undertakings. Isn’t cracking the bedrock a major undertaking?
The target of frackers in California is the Monterey Shale. That large formation is thought to contain 15 billion barrels of oil reserves. That’s a large resource that would add significantly to America’s oil reserves. But, it requires fracking. Because of California’s highly convoluted underground geology, it will require acid fracking. This technique MELTS the rock, not just breaking it with fractures, in order to release the fossil fuels.
Thornton talked at length about toxic chemicals released during and after fracking operations. Fracking uses a highly toxic mixture of chemicals whose constituents are not disclosed to either the public or the government, because of trade secret. It’s known that fracking releases dozens of highly toxic chemicals and carcinogens – Crystalline Silica, Methanol, Hydrochloric Acid, Hydroflouric Acid, Ethyl Glycol, and others.
Another effect he discussed is the boom towns that spring up in areas where fracking is occurring. There is plenty of work building, operating and maintaining the drilling equipment, as long as the fossil fuels last. Most of the workers are young men, who move in from outside the area. They bring along problems like drinking, drugs, prostitution, higher frequency of emergency room visits. Low quality housing is built, but at a high rental fee, driving up the cost of living.
Very little of the money sticks with the local economy. The companies are very efficient at siphoning all the value back to corporate headquarters.
Then as soon as the fossil fuels run out, the companies pull out. What’s left behind is a pile of problems. The now-empty housing won’t find tenants. The wells might get capped, and it’s known some or all will be leaking toxic stuff into the ground.
California saw this story before – the Gold Rush Era. While the Gold lasted, there was lots of money floating around. When the Gold ran out, the boom ended, the miners skedaddled, leaving behind a huge toxic problem that’s still being cleaned up today. Gold mining uses cyanide and mercury, and causes great environmental harm.
Why did I ask “where’s the rage” and whether Americans are asleep? This meeting, with all this great information, was very sparsely attended. Maybe 15 people were in the audience, half of whom had helped organize the event.
Where’s the rage? Where’s the American equivalent to the anti-fracking protests I’ve been covering in Romania?
The Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club has put together an information page with lots of resources. That site also links to http://www.frackfreecali.org/ which has even more information.
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