Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stop the Disinfo: New York Does NOT Have a Ban on Fracking

I would like to correct a serious error that, in its regular
repeating these days, is doing a lot of harm. I keep
hearing about New York's "fracking ban."

New York did not “officially ban hydrofracking [sic],” as I just read in a nice newsletter about sustainability. Nor did “the State DEC [issue] the final document needed to ban it.”

This misinformation has been spreading, causing people to believe they are now “safe” and need not spend any more time thinking about, let alone fighting, fracking. It is dangerous misinformation that has been picked up by all sorts of (irresponsible, gullible, lazy, or collusionist) media and should be challenged by anyone working for sustainability.

First of all, the term “fracking” is generally used by the many human beings who are fighting it (and other heavy industrial harms to water, air, food supply, and human and other species’ health) to mean all the processes involved in exploring, developing, extracting, disposing, storing, and distributing shale gas (so-called “natural” gas) via unconventional drilling, and all related industrial activities.

The Coalition to Protect New York and allied grassroots organizations use it secondarily but equally importantly to denote the “fracturing” of our health, environment, properties, communities, legislatures, media, and way of life by those who would usurp and abrogate our rights.

So, with that in mind, we’re being fracked badly. As FrackbustersNY wrote (and I cowrote) in December, and is still pertinent:
  • First, reversal of the “moratorium” is very possible. This policy of the governor and his Department of Environmental Conservation is vulnerable to reversal should they decide to weigh the scientific information differently in the future — and that decision could be influenced by any number of political or other factors. Also, the moratorium could be overturned as a result of a judicial decision should its legality be challenged, or a new executive could simply nullify this recent action. (Cuomo won’t be in the governor’s seat forever.)
  • Second, the ban applies only to high-volume hydraulic fracturing which uses millions of gallons of chemically-laced water under great pressure in the fracking operation. But it still permits low-volume fracking up to 80,000 gallons (the “official” figure -- we’ve heard of volumes as high as 300,000 gallons being used). Plus, this temporary ban in no way addresses the relentless installation of supportive infrastructure required for industry operations: pipelines, compressor stations, waste disposal sites, water withdrawals from public supplies, gas storage, power plant conversions, export terminals, and more. These activities threaten land, people, and vital local economies with a host of unacceptable impacts as destructive as fracking itself.
  • Third, there is the question of who should be making decisions about our energy future? We live in a supposed democracy. Only “We the People” possess authority to approve or disapprove an industrial undertaking and define its implementation. A moratorium declared by the Governor on the advice of regulatory agencies in service to corporate masters is neither democratic action nor democratic law. Democratic structures and processes must replace those of minority governance and the corporate class that rules it.
  • FrackBustersNY believes it is the obligation of citizens to compel lawmakers and state government to enact legislation that values ecological systems and the common good. As fracking and related industrial activities are exploitive and degrading of nature and community well-being, we call for them to be made crimes in our state law, through the passage of New York Public Law 1. The people, the true governors in a democracy, must seize oversight of this assaultive technology from regulatory agencies and place it within the New York State Penal Code.
This is what DEC head Joe Martens actually published in June: "After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative."

True. A real prohibition on all fracking IS the only smart or reasonable thing to do.

But we do not have a real prohibition on fracking, not even if we forget about our definition. We have an extension of the temporary moratorium on one type of fracking: "high-volume hydraulic fracturing," that which uses more than 300,000 gallons per drilling operation, per the DEC. And I’d wager that was a very carefully constructed verbal smokescreen.

Low-volume horizontal shale-gas drilling has been done in NYS for years, and such fracking is not covered under this falsely named "ban." Other types of fracking for shale gas are in test stages, using lower volumes of water and/or other toxic substances including diesel fuel and other petroleum products. One would have to be hopelessly na├»ve to think that the fossil fuel industry would blithely comply with all so-called "bans" and regulations and not use every available option—of which they’ve been granted many by corrupt government entities—to get around them.

Let’s not forget that the fossil-fuel industry is exempt from numerous environmental safety laws (including the Clean Air Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act aka the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, to name just a few) as well as worker-safety regulations.

Further, DEC head Martens was interviewed in April by Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom radio show and actually admitted that the high-volume fracking ban would be "permanent until the information changes. . . . I don't think there's any such thing in the environmental world as permanent. Information changes. In this case, the health studies . . . may draw a conclusion that there absolutely is public impact . . . but they may find they don't need to use hydraulic fraking to reclaim . . . " [3:23-4:52]

Even more immediate, we should all be alarmed that the proliferation of fracking infrastructure and other fossil fuel infrastructure continues at breakneck pace:
  • Water is being withdrawn from NYS lakes, rivers, and aquifers for use in Pennsylvania fracking.
  • Silica — the hard, sandlike substance for which majestic bluffs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois are being blown apart and which is the cause of the deadly and incurable disease silicosis when ingested through skin and lungs — is being shipped by rail and truck through NYS. It's on its way to fracklands south, where it’s used as a proppant allowing the tiny molecules of methane to be released from the shale.
  • Just down the road from sustainability-minded Ithaca, in neighboring Chemung County, and in several other communities in the state, county landfills are accepting tons of radioactive frack waste from Pennsylvania.
  • Liquid frack waste is being spread on roads.
  • Thousands of miles of pipelines are going in around the state (and the rest of the continent); they come with compressor stations and many other accouterments that invite leaks and explosion. Among the most horrific of these are one planned running adjacent to the ancient (more than 52 years old) Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, already in terrible shape; an explosion there would wipe out hundreds of communities and millions of human lives. (A transformer fire there in May caused thousands of gallons of oil to leak into the Hudson River. It’s also situated within the Ramapo seismic fault line region. Oh, and there are bomb trains running down the tracks along the Hudson River, past Indian Point, next to the passenger Metro North Hudson Line and through numerous populated communities.)
  • Export terminals are planned for off the coast of Long Island/New Jersey/Brooklyn.
  • And fossil fuel storage already happening in the Finger Lakes, starting with storage in compromised and insecure salt caverns along lovely Seneca Lake.
  • Former coal-fired electricity-generating plants are being converted to “natural” gas, and fleets of trucks and buses are being converted to run on “natural” gas, and boilers and cooking stoves in NYC have been mandated to convert to “natural” gas, to boost this rapacious industry, with the cooperation of captured politicians, at a time when all such fossil fuel activities should be shut down as they contribute to hastening catastrophic climate change.
  • The industry continues to enjoy tax benefits and exemption from common-sense environmental and health standards, even as it contributes to hastening catastrophic climate change . . . and even as millions of sustainability and climate activists are conserving energy, switching to wind and solar, building transition economies, bicycling and walking, planning energy-efficient mass transit options, growing organic food in community, and doing all the other wonderful things they are doing alone and collectively to lessen the painful impacts of climate change.
I’ve probably left out some things . . . but this is what’s going on while people are being lulled into a false sense of security on fracking in New York State.

So PLEASE let’s not continue propagating this misinformation!

All those who care about climate and the negative effects of the continuing use of fossil fuels must vigilantly continue the fight against fracking, even as they continue all the positive work they're doing to keep our planet habitable for our and other species.