Institute a Moratorium on Fracking in Your Community
As coal mines shut their doors and nuclear plants go offline, natural gas has become the main driver of our energy needs in the United States. In 2015 1/3 of energy came from natural gas, 1/3 from coal, 1/5 from nuclear, and the rest a mix of hydropower and renewables.
On its face this appears to be a net win. Natural gas emits roughly half the CO2 of coal, with almost none of the severe health effects to boot. While it’s not renewable energy, it is a much clear way to power our country. However, not all is as rosey as it may appear. While natural gas emits less CO2 than coal, it emits far more than nuclear, solar, and other renewables, which are not being choked out of the market due to the low cost of natural gas.
The biggest issue many American’s have with natural gas is not the gas itself, however, but the way it is being extracted for use. Known as hydraulic fracturing, the process involved drilling a well into the gas rich shale, where explosions are set off to cause tiny perforations in the rock lining. From there, a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand are pumped into the shale rock, pushing the gas up. The chemical heavy water is then stored above ground.
There have been numerous reports of contaminated water around hydraulic fracturing areas. This could come from one of two places, either the chemicals are entering the water supply from the ground or from poor storage techniques. There have also been reports of increased earthquakes near fracking operations.
The federal government, concerned deeply about the needs of multi-billion dollar energy giants and their well paid lobbyists, has done little to regulate the industry and calm fears about this issue.
Video: Hydraulic Fracturing Explained
Cities can ban fracking outright, make it much more difficult to frack in their area, or place a temporary ban on the practice until it can be proven to be safety administered.
The one thing we can say for sure is that the only way to see the negative effects of fracking is to allow fracking in your community.
Other than that there is much less that is clear. Scientists are vigurously arguing and studying these points, and many studies show contradictory things. A recent comprehensive study by the EPA found no evidence of widespread drinking water contamination as a result of the drilling process itself. However, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board criticized the statistical approach the EPA took. Other studies have shown it causes methane contamination.
Other studies found air quality issues from release of toxins such as benzene that can negatively impact the health of people near a fracking site.
The issue of earthquakes is also debated. While it’s clear that the process of fracking could cause earthquakes, it’s hard to prove cause and effect for certain.
The science is clear, hydraulic fracturing is safe and will help our community create thousands of jobs. While some people use anecdotal evidence to attack the process, there are many safety precautions that have allowed thousands of wells to be drilled with no negative impacts. All we are doing is stopping an important process that will create thousands of jobs in our community based on fear and misunderstanding of how fracking works.
The science is far from clear, and many studies have shown fracking destroys our drinking water and causes earthquakes. Our economy will die without access to fresh drinking water, so the small amount of money made that will go to large, multi-billion dollars companies is not worth the risk. We need to hold off on fracking until we are sure it is safe for our community.
Policy in Practice
How To Pass It
See what is allowable in your state. Click the map below to see what states are allowing fracking and what states are allowing local control over this issue.
If your city is on this map, either your city or county can oversee the zoning and land use rights of their communities, so either would be a good choice. Counties have been leading on this issue, so you county council may be the best choice to begin lobbying. Whether this can be done in zoning code, public safety ban, or moratorium is up to your government attorney and elected officials, but press for one of these options to be passed.
What You Can Do
The first step, as always, is to research where your locality is and what it can do. The website Fractracker has a great online map showcasing groups working on this issue. Food and Water Watch keeps timely updates of all localities that pass fracking bills, so you can see where your city currently stands.
This is an issue that creates passion in many voters across the political spectrum, so working with allies to press your elected officials should be a great place to start. Your local Sierra Club, Audubon Society, or other environmental justice groups are a natural fit to be allies on this. Groups have been successful in signing petitions, showing up at city commission meetings to speak during public comment, and protesting to pressure local officials to move on this issue.
- Fracking, Explained – Vox
- Fracking Bans and Moratoriums Factsheet – Local Progress
- Resources for Organizers – 350.org
- Find Your Way: A Citizens Tip Guide – Earthjustice
- Heavyweight Response to Local Fracking Bans – New York Times
- Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future – Richard Heinberg
- Fracking – Science Vs. Podcast