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January 27 2012


New York's Fracking Deliberations Inch Along

A meeting with an advisory panel is deferred, suggesting that the decision-making process will not be rushed in coming months.

December 28 2011


In Drilling Safety Debate, Hydrofracking's Not the Only Target

A lawsuit centers on conventional drilling in Chemung County, where residents sued over operations at two natural gas wells that they say contaminated their drinking water.
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September 08 2011


July 12 2011


Fracking Water Killed Trees, Study Finds

Two years after hydraulic fracturing fluids were legally spread on a section of the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia, more than half of the trees in the affected area were dead.

June 20 2011


N.Y. Legislature Tightens Rules on Water Withdrawals

A bill requires that users like power plants, natural gas drillers and water bottlers obtain a state permit before withdrawing 100,000 or more gallons a day.

June 09 2011


Actors Wade Into the Fracking Debate

Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo, Zoë Saldana and others sing the praises of New York State's water supply while making tea, fly-fishing and, in the case of Mr. Hawke, taking a bath.

June 01 2011


May 20 2011


The Fracking Debate, to a Funk Beat

A song outlines the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique that has unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas but has come under sharp scrutiny for its potential to contaminate water and cause other environmental harm.

"My Water's on Fire (The Fracking Song)"

A journalism student writes a song to explain the ins and outs of natural gas drilling.

April 11 2011


Wanted: Frack Busters (Costume Preferred)

Campaigners against hydro-fracking in New York State urge like-minded people to don superhero costumes like a cap and goggles.

March 13 2011


Fracking Banned In New Jersey

On Friday, New Jersey legislators unanimously voted for S-2576, a bill which prohibits hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) for natural gas in the state.

S-2576 is largely symbolic since New Jersey does not use fracking to drill for natural gas. This bill does, however, send a clear message to the industry as well as neighbouring states looking to tap into the Marcellus Shale formation which reaches into New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and northwestern N.J. <!--break-->
In February, New York announced it will lift its 7-month moratorium on fracking in June despite public opposition and nearly two weeks ago, Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett overturned a de-facto ban on leasing sensitive forest land for shale gas development. Additionally, the New Jersey decision to ban dangerous fracking is timely since the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), an intra-state agency overseeing the health of the Delaware River, is presently drafting regulations to control how and where fracking may proceed in the River’s bordering states.

As the New York Times has revealed, hydraulic fracturing poses a significant risk to water quality, public health and the environment.. The claim that gas is “clean” energy is also challenged by the sizable amounts of global warming pollution, comparable to coal, emitted in the entire life cycle of gas production and consumption.

In a Senate hearing earlier in the week, fracking lobbyists argued that Marcellus Shale offers vast and cheap reserves of natural gas. Ed Waters, Director of government affairs for the Chemistry Industry Council of New Jersey said, "If we don’t have that cheap supply of natural gas, we can’t compete in the global markets."

Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), Chairman of the Environment Committee, accepted that natural gas seems on the surface to represent a cheap supply of energy, but countered that:

"New Jersey has 105 superfund toxic waste sites because industry failed to police itself in the past. Don’t you believe we should worry about that with fracking?"

Jeff Tittel, Executive Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club describes fracking as “the biggest threat to New Jersey’s water supply that we’ve ever seen."

State Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), the bill’s sponsor describes the need and impact for this ban:

“The environmental dangers of this procedure and the risks they would pose to New Jersey residents are abundantly clear. In fact, I believe it poses the greatest risk we have seen to our drinking water in our lifetime. This is something we simply cannot allow to come to our state.”

“By passing this legislation we can prevent this hazardous process from happening in New Jersey before it ever gets started. Moreover, we can set the environmental protection example for all other states in the country.

With the legislature coming out in favour of protecting state rivers and water supplies, the environment and public health, New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie should think long and hard before attempting to override the fracking ban.

February 25 2011


Natural Gas Companies Don’t Like Gasland, Josh Fox, or the Oscars

Natural gas companies have tried bullying to get the documentary removed, to no availThe Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium
by Sarah Laskow (reposted with permission)

The natural gas industry is afraid that Josh Fox, director of the muckraking film Gasland, might win an Oscar on Sunday. Earlier this month, an organization called Energy in Depth, backed by the oil and gas industry, sent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a letter in which it argued that Gasland, Fox’s exposé on the natural gas industry, should be removed from consideration for best documentary feature because it contained inaccurate information.

After dealing with the industry for the past couple of years, Fox is not surprised by this tactic. “What this points to is the culture of that industry, which is bullying, which is aggressive, which is outlandish in their tactics, which will stop at nothing,” he told AlterNet.

The film is still up for consideration, and the industry should be worried about the impact its nomination, let alone a victory, could have. Even if the film doesn’t win on Sunday, millions of viewers will see a clip of the film that documents the real threat of environmental devastation that comes along with natural gas drilling and, in particular, with hydrofracking.

Nothing natural about it

The Media Consortium’s Weekly Mulch has been tracking the fight over natural gas drilling. As noted back in September, Sandra Steingraber, in Orion Magazine, has called the rise of hydrofracking “the environmental issue of our time.” In a more recent dispatch for the magazine, Steingraber reports from an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on fracking, a technique for extracting otherwise hard-to-reach gas from the ground.

In upstate New York, where the hearing was held and where natural gas companies have been buying up drilling rights and properties for the past couple of years, residents are hugely concerned about this issue: four hundred people signed up to speak, for 120 seconds each, as Steingraber reports, over two days. One speaker in particular stuck out to her, though:

An older man rose to speak….And then he let ten seconds of silence fill the theater….After hours of ceaseless, rapid-fire speech, the sudden hush flowed through the overheated room like cool water. Someone giggled nervously. And then, finally, he spoke. That silence, he announced, represented the sounds of migratory birds. And tourists. And professors. And organic farmers. And thus with no words at all he reminded the audience of all the good members of our beloved community who would — if our land filled up with drill rigs, waste ponds, compressor stations, and diesel trucks — disappear, exit the cycle. As in, forever.

At Change.org, Austin Billings has another account of what natural gas drilling is putting at risk—the Bridger-Teton National Forest, miles of “spectacular hills and tall pine forests” that, Billings writes, “just kept going” as he drove through them. A company called Plains Exploration and Production Company is working to sink more than 130 natural gas wells in this area, Billings reports, a project that will strew the area with “pipelines, compressor stations, industrial water wells, truck staging areas, and other industrial features.”

Push Back

If Josh Fox wins an Oscar, however, natural gas projects like this one will face even more opposition. And that opposition matters. Just ask Costco, which caved in this week to a Greenpeace-led campaign against its sales of unsustainable seafood. For months, Greenpeace and its allies have been pushing the chain of wholesale grocery stores to sell only fish that can be captured or farmed in a sustainable way. The chain agreed to remove 12 “red list” species, at the highest risk for extinction, and to take other actions to promote sustainability and ocean conservation.

“It was a long and arduous process,” said Casson Trenor, Greenpeace’s seafood campaigner, said, according to Change.org’s Sarah Parsons. “I’m really happy with where we’ve gotten to, and I think it says a lot about our methods and how effective we can be.”

Guilty pleasures

Of course, fish is not the only food that’s damaging to the environment. So much of what’s available to eat is damaging to the environment. Grist reported last week that Girl Scout cookies are made with palm oil, the production of which is driving deforestation in Indonesia. Earth Island Journal’s Maureen Nandini Mitra follows up by pointing out that Thin Mints aren’t the only sweet that sucks up palm oil: her list includes M&Ms, Snickers, and Twix, as well as Cliff energy bars.

Another point against those treats: They usually don’t come in recyclable packaging. On the other hand, it’s a little bit of a mystery what happens to the recyclable containers tossed into the recycling, especially those with a little food gunk left on them. For those worried about their fate, Mother Jones’ Kiera Butler has done a substantial public service by ferreting the best approaching to cleaning out recyclables. The takeaway: They can be a little bit dirty. “It’s not a giant deal if containers have little food residue on them,” Butler reports, but “the cleaner your containers, the more they’re worth on the recyclables market.”


This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets

February 01 2011


January 31 2011


January 25 2011


December 09 2010


N.Y. Objects to Release of Multistate Fracking Rules

New York State, which is now working on its own regulations under strong pressure from pro-and anti-drilling forces, would have preferred that the Delaware River Basin Commission had waited.

December 06 2010


A Crystal Ball for Electricity

A new analysis predicts that growth in power demand and concern over global warming will lead to a greater reliance on renewable energy, more nuclear reactors and a continuing shift from coal to gas.

November 30 2010


November 16 2010


Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling Over Fracking Threat

The Pittsburgh City Council today unanimously adoped a first-in-the-nation ordinance banning corporations from drilling for natural gas within city limits, a direct response to the threats to drinking water and public health posed by hydraulic fracturing methods used widely by drilling companies to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris said her biggest concern about natural gas fracking involves the threat to people's health posed by water contaminated by Marcellus drilling. She noted that the gas industry's claims about creating the thousands of jobs isn't worth the risk.

"They're bringing jobs all right," Harris told CBS News. "There's going to be a lot of jobs for funeral homes and hospitals. That's where the jobs are. Is it worth it?"

Beyond its innovative approach to fighting the fracking threat, the ordinance - drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) - seeks to limit the claim of "personhood" by corporations and to elevate the rights of property owners and other living, breathing citizens above the interests of corporations.

According to Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, who introduced the measure, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights.  It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.” <!--break-->

CELDF summarizes the main threats posed by fracking in the Marcellus shale region:

"Energy corporations are setting up shop in communities across Pennsylvania, to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.  The gas extraction technique known as “fracking” has been cited as a threat to surface and groundwater, and has been blamed for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, local rivers, and streams.  Collateral damage includes lost property value, ingestion of toxins by livestock, drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers, and threatened loss of organic certification for farmers in affected communities."

This is a great bit of news in the fight to hold the natural gas industry accountable for its dangerous fracking activity.  Far too many communities in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. have had their water supplies, health and property rights threatened by natural gas development. 

Congratulations to Pittsburgh for taking a stand. With the foolish rush to rapidly expand natural gas drilling well under way, it will take a lot more communities speaking up to defend themselves in order to alert the rest of the country that natural gas is hardly the energy panacea its proponents claim.

Photo: Domestic water well explosion in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

November 09 2010


E.P.A. Subpoenas Halliburton on Fracking

The E.P.A. says it requested information on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing from eight other major drilling companies, all of which provided the information or pledged full cooperation by early December. Halliburton wanted more time.
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