Think the Bay Area’s safe from fracking?  Me too, until reading Robert Gammon’s article in the East Bay Express.  Just because we don’t live on top of tight shale formations or coalbed methane doesn’t mean were protected from the highly unregulated and outright dangerous process.

Fracking has caused such a gas boom in the United States that the El Paso Corporation is building a natural gas pipeline from Wyoming to the Oregon/California border.  The Ruby Pipline is expected to open as soon as early August 2011, and guess who’s already partnered up with the project? Good ol’ PG&E.  The same company that can’t seem to figure out how to test the structure and integrity of their current natural gas pipelines.

High pressured gas and faulty pipelines aside, fracked gas brings an entirely different set of concerns.  Fracked gas is a crude energy source that needs to be processed at remote locations including compressor stations and dehydrators.  Even though fracking is not taking place at those sites, simple air tests with the Bucket Brigade uncovered exceptionally high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, at a dehydration site.  The chemicals do not stop at the well sites.

These chemicals travel all the way through the refining process, which will include processing at four natural gas plants in the San Francisco Bay Area, the one already under construction is along the Hayward Shoreline.

This poses serious threats to human health if left unregulated.  This power plant “will be fourteen stories tall and will produce a plume that can reach up to 1,000 feet in the air” located about 1.35 miles away from Chabot Community College.  The Board of Trustees, the faculty association, employee unions and students groups at Chabot Community College have been fighting it, all on the bases of environmental racism.  There is no reason why working class communities of color should be disproportionately affected by the negative health impacts of natural gas production.

However this a broader issue that affects all of us.  Whether you live next to fracking wells, along the pipeline or near processing sites, our health could be compromised if this industry is left unregulated.