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Remember, a little over a year ago, when the State of California proposed new fracking regulations?  Remember how they do not regulate air pollution associated with fracking?  Well they are currently in the public comment period and we want to make sure Governor Jerry Brown hears our concerns about the air pollution associated with fracking.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014:  GCM staff traveled to California’s Central Valley to unite with the residents living on the front lines of the fracking boom, to express concerns regarding the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources’ (DOGGR) proposed regulations at a public hearing held at the Kern County Administrative Building.  What a trip!!

Residents traveled from all over the Central Valley, showed up early with signs and anti-fracking chants.  We staged a rally out front and cheered as motorists honked in support.  Then, one by one, we filed in and filled out our cards to make public comment.  Everyone could agree that these proposed regulations were not going to protect the health and safety of Valley residents from the potential pollution associated with fracking.

Governor Brown’s new fracking regulations are flawed, especially related to air pollution by:

  • a lack of air monitoring;

  • inadequate control of emissions from fracking and related production operations;

  • a lack of regulation on flares. Flare in Shafter

Back in December, GCM Staff connected with concerned residents in Shafter, CA where there is nearly constant flaring going on at a fracking site.  The flare is just upwind of a school and community garden, where residents have reported acute health effects, like burning eyes and sore throats.

Central Valley residents, active with the Bucket Brigade, were able to collect an air sample, near this site, in Shafter.   

The results show a presence of five different chemicals, known to be associated with fracking operations as well as increased levels of methane, also common near fracking sites.

The level of acrylonitrile detected at this location, 5.9 µg/m3, is 590 times the reference level set by the US EPA, to be associated with an increased risk of cancer for a lifetime of exposure.  Additionally, it also exceeds the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) chronic reference exposure level, and could pose an increased risk for negative health effects on the respiratory system.

The sample results also detected a mix of toxic chemicals, including  styrene, chlorobenzene, toluene and ethanol, as well as a methane level of 2.7 ppm, which is higher than normal background levels, indicating that this sample location may be impacted by localized emissions of methane.

Considering that California’s Central Valley has some of the worst air quality in the Country, air pollution from fracking could serve to overburden residents living in the Central Valley. Especially among vulnerable populations like children, pregnant women, seniors and those with already compromised immune systems.

Residents of the Central Valley, and all other parts of California, deserve clean air not fracking wells.  Not able to express your concerns at a public hearing?  No problem.  Comments can be submitted online.  Take action for clean air and let Governor Brown know that you oppose fracking in California!

Image from Hartford.com

Ever played “Old Maid”?

Remember that card game where each player has to pick cards from each others’ hand trying not to get stuck with the ‘Old Maid’ card?

Fracking has become a little like that, similar to a ponzi scheme or a fool’s game, where everyone is trying to sell the leases and natural gas before the bubble breaks and still turn a profit.  This economic bubble is created by too much natural gas on the market, causing a price drop and therefore the underpinnings of initial investment will come undone.  The person or company left holding the natural gas investments when this bubble breaks will be the ‘Old Maid’ (aka: lose a lot of money in the investment).

Image from Energy.gov

With this ‘overabundance’ of natural gas below the surface, gas prices are dropping so quickly, some even call the fracking practice uneconomical.  According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,  “From an average of $8.85 per million British thermal units in 2008, natural-gas prices fell sharply to $4.39 in 2010, and $3.94 in 2011. In [January], prices dropped below $2.50, and they are expected to stay under $5 for another decade.”  It’s starting to seem as if the only way to turn a profit on it is by exporting it to Europe and China where gas prices are much higher.

But, exporting it leaves the “America’s Domestic Energy Source” messaging to fall flat on its face.

Image from Care2.com

To complicate the natural gas market even further, businesses like Chesapeake Energyare known for ‘flipping land’ to be fracked.  They do initial exploration, make projections and then sell the land at a higher cost. Chesapeake Energy is no newcomer to Airhugger.  We highlighted their toxic fracking fluid spill in Pennsylvania last April.  And now they’re back in the news, some even calling them the next Enron, or blaming them for creating a financial bubble worse than the housing crisis.   And, with the drop in gas prices, they’ve had to make some risky financial deals and move very quickly to sell these leases so as to not become the ‘Old Maid’.

So, not only does fracking risk our clean and healthy environment, it also puts at us great economic risk.  We’ve all heard the promise of hundreds of jobs, although the figure is highly debatedand the number may be far lower than predicted, but now it seems as if any jobs fracking creates will only last until this economic bubble breaks.  When the fracking bubble breaks, people will lose their jobs and investments.  This has the potential to add even more stress to our already strained economy.

Image from Cleveland.com

Now, the silver lining here is that this economic perspective shows the light at the end of the tunnel.  Once fracking becomes vastly uneconomical, there is a very strong chance we’ll see the end of the practice entirely.  But, the big question here is ‘when?’.  We’ve already heard so many concerns over contamination and environmental degradation and many are very worried about the potential health risks associated with fracking.  How many more wells will be drilled too close to homes, schools and community centers before the economics prove the practice obsolete?

Raise your hand if you separate kitchen scraps, throw it in your green bin for municipal composting, and feel like you’re doing good for the environment.

Don’t be embarrassed, I’m with you here!

But, where does it actually go?  And, who is double checking to make sure it only contains organic matter? 

Global Community Monitor has recently launched a new Bucket Brigade in Arvin, CA; a city noted for having the worst air quality in The States.  The number one facility that the residents want to monitor, is a compost facility, that accepts municipal waste.

Nothing about this facility, Community Recycling, echoes the clean, green side of composting.  Recent, Bucket tests have even identified elevated levels of hazardous chemicals escaping across Community Recycling’s fenceline and into the community.

Is this progress?

Sure, it’s convenient for residents of Los Angeles County.  Waste Management delivers a little green bin to put in the kitchen, it’s then filled up with kitchen scraps, dumped into the large green waste bin and picked up by Waste Management weekly.  Residents in Alameda County, don’t have to go through the smelly, sometimes laborious job of composting themselves, but feel good about not throwing these items in the trash and often once a year get to go pick up free planting soil, generated by their ‘green’ waste.

But, residents of Arvin, CA live next to Community Recycling, a facility that accepts this ‘green waste’.  This facility is often impossible to drive past without choking and gagging a bit as you’re trying to have a conversation.  AND- from the looks of it, none of this ‘compost’ is something you’d want to use in your garden anyway!  Metal, plastics and even agricultural waste is visible in the ‘compost’ heaps and they have a contract with the Water District to accept grey water and sewage sludge to spray all over this ‘green’ waste.

What’s so green about that?!  Are we working towards a solution here or are we just relocating the problem?  Yes, municipal, curbside pick-up of green waste has many more people separating their food scraps from their trash, but at what cost?

Maybe the real solution here isn’t a free little green bin for kitchen food scraps, but rather a free little compost bin where residents can compost their own kitchen scraps into non-toxic planning soil to re-use in their garden.

Remember the national debate on the Keystone Pipeline?  The protests, the online petitions and the political mudslinging?  Well, get ready because a similar debate is brewing around hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking).  Although, President Obama did include natural gas development in his January State of the Union Address, Senate Republicans lack confidence in President Obama to move quickly and keep the fracking industry unregulated.  Prompting Senator Inhofe to introduce a bill, The Fresh Act, to “ensure that states – not the federal government – have the sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing within their state boundaries.”

So what’s the debate here?

Same as usual, Safety vs. Profit.

Energy companies repeatedly assure us that fracking is safe and poses no documented risks to human health.  Energy companies claim there is no confirmed evidence that it contaminates water wells or emits an alarming presence of volatile organic compounds that can elevate the risk of respiratory problems, reproductive issues and cancer.  There’s no direct connection, energy companies claim.  Therefore there is no need to regulate fracking under the Clean Air Act or Safe Drinking Water Act, despite the fact that these laws have regulated almost every other industry since the 1970’s!  AND, of course there’s no need to for the EPA or the public to know what chemicals are being injected into the soil, even if that soil is on their property.  Regulations like these would simply slow down our progress, and that’s “un-American”!

Yeah, we’ve all heard the rhetoric, but a lot of us have seen GASLAND too.  We watched the oil pouring out into the Gulf Coast for 87 days and although BP said Gulf Coast seafood is perfectly safe to eat, about 119 days after the spill, did you really believe them?  The fact is, the majority of us want stricter fracking regulations to ensure our own safety.

As part of the generation most impacted by the mass media.  I wonder, what if the Mayor of Amity Island took Martin Brody & Richard Dreyfuss’ advice and closed the beach down despite profits from the tourist  season?  Or, what if the Captain of the Titanic heeded the seven iceberg warnings by slowing down instead of being blinded by power and profit?  We’ve seen this scenario play out outside of Hollywood as well.  The Deep Water Horizon, Bhopal and countless other accidents have cost us lives when individuals in power compromise safety over profits.  Is the natural gas industry any different?  The top execs in the energy industry have an opportunity to make a lot of money here and we the people need to have oversight of the industry to protect our health and safety!

So let the oil and gas companies scream JOBS but we, the American people, value the health and safety of our families a little more.  President Obama needs to impose regulations on the natural gas  industry, close the Halliburton loophole and be sure not to let energy companies compromise our health over profits.  If fracking is not a risk to our air and water, it should have no problem adhering to the regulations within the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

A new report issued by Global Community Monitor, GASSED! Citizen Investigation of Toxic Air Pollution from Natural Gas Development, details the air sampling results, environmental and public health threats with living amid the natural gas boom.  During 2010-11, Global Community Monitor (GCM), responding to citizen odor and health complaints, launched a Bucket Brigade in northwest New Mexico, southwest Colorado and western Colorado to document and measure air pollution from natural gas facilities. Through the course of this pilot study, residents, armed with their own air monitors, documented a potent mix of chemicals in nine air samples from different locations, many of them located near homes, playgrounds, schools and community centers.

The lab detected a total of 22 toxic chemicals in the air samples, including four known carcinogens, as well as toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants.  The chemicals detected ranged from 3 to 3,000 times higher than what is considered safe by state and federal agencies.

 

These air samples confirm the observations, experiences and first-hand complaints of residents.
Odors and health effects that have been reported for years were consistent with exposure to the
chemicals found in the samples. These results underscore the need of regulatory agencies to take such complaints seriously, given the close proximity between the industry and its residential
neighbors.

Read the rest of this entry »

New legislation is coming out from state governments which would require natural gas companies that use hydraulic fracturing to disclose the list of chemicals used in the fracking fluid.  Surprisingly, Texas is the first state government to pioneer such legislation.

Image from David M. Holmes as uploaded on YouTube

Sounds great right?  Well, here’s the catch-

The majority of these statewide proposals include an exception stating that the company does not have to disclose the list of chemicals if it would threaten trade secrets.  That’s the same excuse Halliburton gave the US EPA in response to the Federal request for disclosure!  Although, it appears that that request has still gone unanswered, Halliburton has since released the ingredients of its new Eco-Friendly Fracking Fluid that uses chemicals “sourced entirely from the food industry.”

Both, this “Eco-Friendly Fracking Fluid” and this new legislation are poised to appear as a progressive step in the right direction – for public safety and corporate responsibility.  This is exactly what the energy companies and their allied public officials need: to undermine the public health and environmental activists by confusing their support base.  Read the rest of this entry »

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