Friday, April 5, 2013

More Evidence that Fracking Triggers Earthquakes!

 The most worrisome side effect of "fracking" is the rise of earthquakes in areas where the practice is extensive.
The latest evidence comes in the form of an article in the March 26 issue of Geology, a publication of the Geological Society of America.
Entitled "Potentially induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, USA: Links between wastewater injection and the 2011 Mw 5.7 earthquake sequence," the study was coauthored by University of Oklahoma Geophysics Professor Katie Keranen, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Dr. Elizabeth Cochran and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's seismologist Dr. Heather Savage and Dr. Geoffrey Abers.
The study focused its research on seismic activity in Oklahoma over the past two years and concluded that a 4.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Prague on Nov. 5, 2011, was "induced" by the injection wells. Two subsequent earthquakes, including a 5.7-magnitude "event" the following day, was the biggest in contemporary state history, were caused by the first earthquake and existing tectonic stresses in the earth.
Oklahoma's Nov. 6, 2011 earthquake was the state's largest recorded with modern instrumentation. Two people were injured in the quake, which destroyed 14 homes, buckled pavement and was felt in 17 states, as far north as Wisconsin.
Professor Keranen said during an interview that there is excellent seismic data to back up the paper's conclusions, stating, "The evidence that we collected supports this interpretation. We can say several things with certainty: That the earthquakes begin within hundreds of meters of the injection wells in the units they inject into, so spatially we don't have much doubt, there is a direct spatial link."
The methodology was thorough. The paper reported that within 24 hours of the first earthquake Dr. Keranen and Oklahoma Geological Survey research seismologist Austin Holland set up seismic recorders in the area. The Geology study reports that 1,183 aftershocks were recorded by the seismic network and subsequently examined, of which 798 were studied closely.
Farther afield, seismologists suspect that oil and gas activity may have triggered earthquakes in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado and Ohio. States have adopted differing approaches to the issue, but there is now no doubt that the seismic issue is beginning to impact state legislatures considering fracking activities. Regulators in Arkansas voted to ban injection wells from one particular region after a series of earthquakes rattled the state two years ago. Oil and gas regulators in Colorado now require a review by a state seismologist before injection well permits are issued, and Illinois has passed legislation requiring injection wells to stop operating if related earthquakes cause a public safety risk. But as of yet, earthquake risk has not impacted state fracking regulations in California, Texas, New York or Oklahoma.
In the last four years, the number of quakes in the middle of the United States surged 11-fold from the three decades prior.
The natural gas industry will do their best to deny this, but it is hard to deny the rubble of 14 homes in Oklahoma, and the shattered lives of the families who once lived in them. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

California considers fracking moratorium

Democrats in the California state assembly have introduced measures to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until state regulators evaluate the public health and environmental concerns.
Following in the steps of New York and New Jersey, three measures were introduced in the California legislature this week to ban fracking and wait for state regulators determine if the practice is safe and what regulations would be needed to move forward.
“Fracking operations have skyrocketed in recent years throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations,” said Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom, whose bill would ban fracking until regulations are implemented. “However, fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that pose serious threats to public health and the environment.”

Read more:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Unanimous Vote in Florida!

I am pleased to announce that my home state of Florida may soon become the fourth state with a law on the books enforcing hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") chemical disclosure. The Florida House of Representatives' Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee voted unanimously (11-0) on March 7 to require chemical disclosure from the fracking industry. For many, that is cause for celebration and applause.
Currently there is a loophole in the law that allows companies to keep communities ignorant of the chemicals the fracking industry is dumping onto their drinking water. 
That loophole is referred to by many as the "Halliburton Loophole" because Dick Cheney had left his position as CEO of Halliburton -- one of the largest oil and gas services corporations in the world -- to become vice president and convene the Energy Task Force. That Task Force consisted of the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. One of its key actions was opening the floodgates for unfettered fracking nationwide.
Between 2001 and the bill's passage in 2005, the Task Force held over 300 meetings with oil and gas industry lobbyists and upper-level executives. The result was a slew of giveaways to the industry in this omnibus piece of legislation. On top of the "Halliburton Loophole," the bill also contains an exemption for fracking from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fracking Interests have Senator in their Pocket

Shouldn’t your senator be allowed to vote on an issue as important as fracking? We think so, but apparently Senate Majority Coalition Leader Skelos doesn’t agree.
Senator Carlucci introduced a bill (S-4046) that would allow time to study the health impacts of fracking and establish a two-year moratorium within our borders.
But Senator Skelos has said that he won’t bring it up for a vote.
The magic number in the Senate is 32. If there are 32 Senators supporting a bill, it will pass. We need to build the co-sponsor list to show support for a rational time-out on fracking and we need your help.
Your Senator hasn’t supported this bill yet—please contact their office today and ask them to co-sponsor.
We have only one way to protect New Yorkers from fracking’s dangers:  to prevent disasters before they happen. This bill gives us the time to fully study the health impacts of fracking—so that science can truly drive the state’s plans, rather than the heavy hand of the gas industry.
But Senator Skelos says that he won’t let it go to the floor for a vote. Can you believe that? Won't even let it get on the floor for a vote! That's how tightly the fracking industry has the Senate Majority Leader by the balls.

      We shouldn't put up with this blatant suppression of the will of the People. Call your Congressman (they count one phone call as equal to a hundred emails!) and tell them to give bill S-4046 a fighting chance.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Much to like in new Illinois Fracking Bill

     A bill recently introduced in the Illinois House, HB 2615, would change much of what environmentalists find objectionable in current fracking regulations (or lack thereof).
     The bill was crafted over the past eight months by a team of House members led by John Bradley, a Democrat from Carbondale. Also involved in the crafting of the bill were representatives of the oil and gas industry, as well as four statewide environmental groups: Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment Illinois and Faith in Place. According to those groups, the regulatory framework that would be established by HB 2615 is stricter than that in effect in any other state.

     First among these stricter provisions are protections for water and air. HB 2615 requires that all of the flowback from fracking be stored in closed tanks rather than open pits, which is the norm now in states without such regulations. This drastically reduces the risks of spills, overflows and floodwater contamination, as well as other issues associated with the open storage of water mixed with hazardous substances.

The bill also protects against the pollution of water sources by stipulating practices in the construction and maintenance of gas wells, and it establishes a monitoring regime to verify that wells perform properly.

Under the monitoring regime, nearby water sources are sampled on a before-and-after basis. If new contamination is detected in post-fracking tests, the fracking company is presumed to be liable for it.
Illinois residents will also be pleased with the bill's provisions for public participation in the permitting process. It enables anyone who may be affected by a fracking operation to request a public hearing on the permit for it, and it stipulates that those are "contested case" hearings.
In such hearings, parties are allowed to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses, and the proceedings are documented so they can be cited in legal appeals.Much of the controversy around fracking elsewhere in the U.S. has arisen where oil and gas companies are able to keep secret what chemicals they are injecting into the ground in the process of fracking.

HB 2615 would require fracking companies to disclose to IDNR a list of all substances used in fracking fluids, the formulas for those fluids and their processes. This makes that material subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. In such cases, the bill provides that IDNR determines which parts of this information are proprietary, not the operators, as is the case in other states.
There is, of course, much more to HB 2615 than this, from setback requirements that keep wells a certain distance from homes, schools and hospitals, to reclamation standards that establish conditions for sites after wells are taken out of operation. People can learn more by visiting This Bill could well serve as a model for other states to emulate.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

State's Rights? What about Townspeoples' Rights?

     Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told KCNC radio that Colorado has an obligation to sue Fort Collins for banning oil and gas development within its city limits, calling an oil drilling ban a “taking” of mineral rights.
     “The governor takes no joy in suing local government,” Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown told the Coloradoan Wednesday. “As a former mayor he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the state’s legal obligations. Bans like the one under consideration in Fort Collins violate state law.”
     Brown said Hickenlooper was unavailable to talk to local reporters Wednesday.
Hickenlooper told CBS4 that banning oil and gas exploration and production within Fort Collins’ city limits is a “taking” of the mineral rights of the city’s own citizens.
He said the state has “no choice” but to sue every city, town or county that chooses to ban oil and gas development and fracking.
     “That’s not a happy statement for a community to receive that the state wants to sue the municipality,” Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat said Wednesday. “Certainly, the city respects the authority of the state and the governor. He has a job to do and we have a job to do.”
     Weitkunat said regulation of oil and gas has been delegated to the state government, but she’d like to see more local government control over where drilling can occur.
“It’s not about defiance; it’s about what’s good for our residents and what’s the beset way to achieve that,” she said.
     “I personally don’t like the idea of getting sued,” she said. “My responsibility as a public official is to protect the city as well. ... I have back-and-forth feelings on that, but I don’t want to have the wrath of the governor by any means.”

     Needless to say, this will set a bad precedent if Ft. Collins caves in on this. It is much easier for Big Oil interests to buy one governor than have to bribe dozens of municipalities individually. If Ft. Collins backs down, governors of other states will seize on this and tell citizens of their states that they also lack the right to decide what will be done in their own towns. There will be no way to defend the contamination and exploitation of their own environs.
     Please take the time to write a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper that he is wrong on this.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Play's the Thing -

  "The Play's the thing, to set the message before the King". To paraphrase Shakespeare, sometimes the best way to speak to Power and get one's message to the people is to utilize the drama inherent upon the stage.
      A performance group from New York City has been working with students at Bucknell University to put on a play called “Same River”.
     The performance group is called “Strike Anywhere.” It travels to states impacted by natural gas drilling. Director Leese Walker and her crew spent three weeks in parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania, interviewing people affected by fracking.
     “Being in the place really influenced the show. All the little details you don’t think about. The jewelry shop, the banners in the town, give you the sense of how the towns have changed,” said Walker.
After their shows the group organizes town hall discussions, so people can talk about what they saw on stage.
     “In this case we want the audience talking to each other. The whole point of this show is to incite dialogue about pertinent issues,” said Walker. Bucknell students taking part in the performance hope the play gets people talking about fracking.
     “No matter what you feel about this, you go home and say you need to go further and figure out more about this. Getting informed is the first step in whatever direction you’re taking with this,” said Evan Turissini, a student.
     ... This author certainly agrees, and applauds this creative effort to reach out and educate the community. Congrats and kudos to Strike Anywhere and the students of Bucknell U.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fracking Industry Admits to Carcinogen Use

Those alarmed by the widespread adoption of fracking in recent years have tried desperately to expose the water-chemical cocktail that gas companies inject into the ground to access gas deposits. Unfortunately, the industry does not require disclosure of this fluid’s ingredients, even though it’s very likely to end up in the public water supply.
Up until now it’s been deny, deny, deny, but a recent industry report has exposed fracking for the deadly practice that it is.
It is not easy to pry information from the close-mouthed fracking industry, but sometimes they put their own feet in their mouths and disclose things to fracking-friendly websites. At one such site, "", the industry self-reported the liberal use of the carcinogens naphthalene, benzyl chloride, and formaldehyde in wells that connect to the drinking water supply.

Did you catch that? The use of carcinocens was voluntarily reported, by gas companies themselves, to a fracking-friendly website. That means no twisting of facts or empty accusations by environmentalists (not that that happens anyway). This is straight from the horse’s mouth, if you will, and it’s BAD NEWS for communities across the country.

A group calling itself "SkyTruth" has painstakingly compiled a database of the chemicals being used and dumped into the environment by the fracking industry. It is available here:

 Big Gas is allowed to pump these chemicals into the Earth with impunity. Sure, everyone from the EPA down claims to be “looking into” the potential hazards of fracking, meanwhile the gas companies are charging full steam ahead, using their financial and political clout to bully communities into submission.
It’s wrong, it’s dangerous and it’s time we did something about it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lawsuit Aims to Stop Unregulated Fracking in California

     In their latest action to stop dangerous fracking, the Center for Biological Diversity went to court this morning to require California regulators to enforce existing laws to protect people, wildlife and the environment from fracking. Fracking, a rapidly expanding method of oil and gas extraction, is happening at hundreds of wells across California.
     The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County, says fracking has been allowed to expand without legally required oversight, including compliance with existing oil and gas regulations that would require disclosure of all fracking chemicals, as well as engineering studies and tests to evaluate the potential for underground migration of fracking fluids. State regulators would also need to ensure that fracking is conducted in a way that prevented damage to life, health, property, and California's water and other natural resources.
     More than 600 wells in at least nine California counties were fracked in 2011 alone, and recent advances in fracking techniques are driving a growing interest in the Monterey Shale, a geological formation holding an estimated 14 billion barrels of oil. California regulators cannot continue ignoring the risks of this dangerous practice.
     As usual, the people of California are taking the lead in showing the rest of the nation how to progressively respond to new developments and environmental threats. We should all give them our heartfelt support.

New Adventure Novel on Fracking

    You've seen the Matt Damon movie and the two documentaries, pro and con, on fracking. Are you ready now to immerse yourself in a good adventure yarn about it?
    A new novel, entitled Deep Ecology and authored by yours truly, is available digitally on I believe it is the first fiction novel to deal with the subject of fracking.
    In it, a Big Energy corporation is experimenting with drilling the first fracking facility on the continental shelf in the Pacific Northwest. Because the horizontal wells extend out below the sea floor, it is wrecking havoc with the marine life. Killer whales go mad and start attacking humans. An ancient covenant between the "People of the Sea" - orcas - and the "People of the Forest" - Native American Indian tribes - is broken, and the medicine man of the Kwakiutls is determined to fix it.
    He enlists the aid of a powerful and clandestine environmental group known only as "The Council" to end the fracking and discourage further facilities from disrupting the West Coast.
    In this modern "David v. Goliath" story, the eco-warriors take on the vastly superior resources of the corporations to defend the Earth. Along the way they must contend with violence, murder, and even man-made earthquakes.
    Deep Ecology is a fast-paced read with clear lines drawn between the Good Guys and the Bad. Anyone with pro-environmental sympathies should enjoy it. Those without a Kindle can download the Apple Store's Kindle app to make it readable in Apple's format. It is available for both purchase or sampling of the first two chapters here:  .

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Univ. of Penn to lead a national effort to study health effects of fracking.

PHILADELPHIA – A coalition of academic researchers in the United States is preparing to shine a rigorous scientific light on the often emotional debate over whether using hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas is hazardous to human health.
Some five years after the controversial combination of fracking and horizontal drilling in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and surrounding states got under way, a team of toxicologists from the University of Pennsylvania is leading a national effort to study the health effects of fracking.
The university’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicologywill investigate and analyze reports of nausea, headaches, breathing difficulties and other ills from people who live near natural gas drilling sites, compressor stations or wastewater pits.

The aim is to bring academic discipline to the unresolved national debate, which pits an industry that denies any link between fracking and environmental contamination against those who assert that fracking poisons air and water with natural and man-made chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
“There is an enormous amount of rhetoric on both sides,” said Trevor M. Penning, head of the Penn toxicology center and the driving force behind the Environmental Health Sciences Core Center Hydrofracking Working Group. “We felt that because we are situated in Pennsylvania, we had a duty to get on top of what was known and what was not known.”
Determining whether fracking fluid is dangerous to health is challenging if the chemicals and their combinations are not fully disclosed, he said. The teams will also look at whether air quality is dangerously affected by the flaring of waste gases, and whether the industry’s extensive use of diesel fuel for trucks, drills and compressor stations is polluting the air near gas installations to unhealthy levels.
“We don’t know if the levels we are dealing with are hazardous,” he said. “We think it’s unsafe, but we don’t know it’s unsafe.”
Awaiting financing is a plan to use a Harvard University mapping tool to correlate natural gas installations with reports of sickness and a proposal to study the health outcomes of targeted populations by examining billing data from insurance companies.
Asked why academics are only now proposing a systematic study of fracking’s health effects about five years after the shale boom began in earnest in Pennsylvania, Dr. Penning replied, “Politics.”
With a strongly pro-industry administration led by Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, and a Republican-controlled legislature that has recently approved a gas-drilling law friendly to industry, state financing has not been available for research into whether drilling activities have negative health effects, Dr. Penning said.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono Join Fracking Protest

     John Lennon's son Sean and his mother Yoko appeared in Albany, New York, last Friday to join protestors who have been campaigning against hydraulic fracturing, or"fracking," according to The New York Times .
     Lennon and Ono have been speaking out against fracking since last summer, founding Artists Against Fracking. The famous pair visited with N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo after the protest rally and dropped off over 200,000 anti-fracking testimonials at the state dept. of Environmental Conservation.
    "Fracking kills, and it doesn’t just kill us," said Ono. "It kills the land, nature and, eventually, the whole world." John Lennon bought a house in the Catskills that is now threatened by the construction of a natural gas pipeline. "He loved it there because we had our own well water," said Lennon of his father. That house was my dad's house and still is, so I'm sure he would’ve been on our side." 
     The support from such imminent and socially conscious artists as the Lennons is certainly welcome, and can go a long way in increasing puplic awareness of the environmental threat posed by fracking. I urge other artists to consider joining their Artists Against Fracking organization.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Deal With The Devil

"Has the devil offered a bargain? Fracking, the controversial practice of using high-pressure water and chemicals to release energy trapped miles beneath the surface has the singular potential to make the U.S. energy independent within 10 years. America could produce more energy than Saudi Arabia, but at what cost?
This viral image of flaming tap water is part of the debate about whether fracking is worth the cost.
This viral image of flaming tap water is part of the debate about whether fracking is worth the cost.

An energy independent America is a laudable goal. Affordable fuel for cars and homes, cheaper raw materials for manufacturing, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of new jobs could put more Americans to work than at any time in the past two generations. 

Exporting our energy could bring billions, if not trillions into our economy, reducing our deficit and if wisely spent, rebuilding America into the world's most technologically advanced, clean and sophisticated societies. 

We would be number one again, but is this just the devil whispering in our ear?

The costs of fracking are unknown. Industry leaders say it's negligible, that fracking is harmless. It's energy we can now obtain, thanks to advances in technology. It's jobs for Americans and food on our plates. It's a bright new dawn for America.

At the same time, detractors say the real impacts are unknown. Studies have been hampered by interference from politicians and drillers. Environmentalists and concerned citizens say that fracking consumes and contaminates water, pollutes the air, and even causes earthquakes. 

Then, there's the moral question if the likely increased consumption of fossil fuels is the direction our nation ought to move in the first place. Shouldn't we be weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, rather than doubling down?

Before we can answer these questions, we need to know the facts, and those are difficult to come by, since the debate over fracking is hyper-charged with emotion and politics. 

The reason this debate comes to the fore is because it has been acknowledged that fracking is now capable of releasing massive amounts of pent-up energy from shale reserves in the U.S. Once harvested, this energy would make the United States the world's largest petroleum producer, even greater than Saudi Arabia. The United States could export energy rather than import it. Most importantly, the timetable is less than a decade. 

This has legions on both sides, drawing lines for a battle that has implications far beyond the wells we might drill. 

The first problem stems from the lack of solid scientific information on the practice of fracking. Investigators have repeatedly alleged that political and private interference has prevented them from gathering proper data required to complete their assessments. Without those assessments, it becomes more a matter of conjecture than anything, if fracking is harmful.  

Initial opposition to this practice came from people concerned about their water supplies. Concern began to grow in areas where fracking was being practiced affected people insisted their water was being contaminated by the injected chemicals. 

Subsequent studies have in fact revealed that occasional leaks do occur, especially in cases where the wells have not been properly drilled. 

Fracking also demands the use of large quantities of water. Extracting gas from a single well could require an average of five million gallons of water. This will return about 4 billion cubic feet of gas, although these figures will vary based on a number of factors. 

While fracking does not always contaminate water, it still consumes mass quantities of it. Freshwater is a limited quantity and any water used for fracking will be unavailable for human use, potentially forever. It's a significant trade, particularly in regions beset by drought. 

In addition to consuming water and injecting chemicals which can sometimes leak into water supplies, fracking can also release methane and other greenhouse gasses into the air. Typically, this is also a result of mistake, but as with all such projects, mistakes do happen. Consider the infamous BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  

Fracking has also been shown to cause earthquakes, although minor ones, in both the U.S. and UK.  Some European countries, concerned about these environmental impacts have even banned fracking altogether. 

Finally, the cheapening of fossil fuels will naturally encourage their use and divert urgency and capital away from renewable research, which will eventually be needed no matter what course the nation takes. Although, the wealth extracted via fracking could be so great that ample revenues could be earmarked via legislation to ensure renewable research continues apace. 

There are a number of scientific and ethical questions that need to be resolved before the nation begins to pursue fracking as an energy solution. 

It must first be determined if the harms caused by fracking are truly significant. If they are significant, then it must be decided if they are worth the returns, which admittedly are substantial. However, if the harms are so great as to make the practice unethical, then no matter what the promise is, we must reject it. 

A deal with the devil is never worth it, no matter how rich and sweet is sounds. "
... I think this is an accurate metaphor. "Deal with the Devil", indeed!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Longmont, Colorado shows the way

Powerful energy companies like the fictional one in “Promised Land” are strong-arming landowners for drilling rights; the slick lines their leasing representatives use are echoed in the film’s dialogue. Like the fictional residents of McKinley, everyday people are unconvinced by the industry spin, asking tough questions and taking a stand. From coast to coast, some 300 communities have passed measures limiting fracking — from improved protections to outright bans.
In November, the people of Longmont, Colo., voted by a wide margin to ban fracking — rejecting a well-financed industry campaign against the measure. Rather than accept the will of the people, the lobbying group for Colorado’s energy industry sued the town, saying that residents had no right to ban the controversial practice. But in recent rulings, three courts — two in New York and one in Illinois — have rejected similar arguments and upheld local communities’ rights to self-determination.
In one case, in which Earthjustice attorneys are representing the town, an energy company owned by an individual with a net worth of $7.5 billion pressured the residents of Dryden, N.Y. (population 14,500), into signing lease agreements before they understood the risks of fracking.

Read more:

Interested in a fictional novel about fighting Fracking in the Pacific Northwest? Check out