Massachusetts seeks 10-yr ban on gas fracking after series of Texas quakes by rt.com, November 30, 2013
An environmental committee at Massachusetts Statehouse has approved a bill, imposing a 10-year ban on fracking for natural gas. The move comes as a wave of earthquakes in Texas has raised new concerns over the controversial drilling technique. The Massachusetts fracking moratorium bill is designed to protect the state’s drinking water from possible contamination and thus “ensure that the health and prosperity of our communities is maintained,” according to one of the legislation’s sponsors, Northampton Democratic state Rep. Peter Kocot, cited by AP. … The Massachusetts legislative move was taken on Friday, the day after Texas was stuck by a 3.6 magnitude earthquake, one in a row of similar episodes during the last three weeks. The finger of blame is being pointed at fracking. The series of small earthquakes caused no casualties, but left local Texas residents fearing worse could be in store.
The smell of chemicals preceded the series of Texas tremors, according to Rebecca Williams, a resident in the town of Azle, which was affected by the most powerful earthquake so far in the series. “We could not figure out where the chemicals were coming from,” Williams told RT. “Then we started having the earthquakes. The earthquakes seemed to be getting stronger. When the 3.6 one happened I tried to get up and run downstairs and my house was shaking so bad, I could not even run.” Williams is sure the cracks in the walls of her house are a direct result of the fracking practices. Meanwhile, in the neighboring Denton County, an anti-fracking activist, Tara Linn Hunter, links her own aggravated health problem to the drilling. “We all live at the foot of a gas well in my town,” she told RT. “The biggest effect it had on me personally is asthma. Nebulizers, inhalers are part of my daily life and that’s become increasingly worse in the five years I’ve lived in this town.” [Emphasis added]
Bill Would Ban Fracking In Massachusetts For 10 Years by Associated Press, November 29, 2013, CBS Boston
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has approved a bill that would create a 10-year moratorium on the technique, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Although the state isn’t seen as a rich source of shale gas, there could be limited deposits in western Massachusetts. Environmental activists argue that fracking can lead to water contamination, illness and damaged rural landscapes. They say the potential problem is heightened in Massachusetts by the fact that many communities in the Pioneer Valley rely on groundwater as their sole source of drinking water. … Northampton Democratic state Rep. Peter Kocot, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the measure will help the state protect its drinking water and “ensure that the health and prosperity of our communities is maintained.” The bill must still be approved by lawmakers and signed by Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick before becoming law. Vermont, which is believed to have little to no reserves of oil or natural gas, last year became the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing. [Emphasis added]
Fracking by the Numbers, KEY IMPACTS OF DIRTY DRILLING AT THE STATE AND NATIONAL LEVEL by Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center, October 3, 2013
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY … As fracking expands rapidly across the country, there are a growing number of documented cases of drinking water contamination and illness among nearby residents. Yet it has often been difficult for the public to grasp the scale and scope of these and other fracking threats. Fracking is already underway in 17 states, with more than 80,000 wells drilled or permitted since 2005. … This report seeks to quantify some of the key impacts of fracking to date—including the production of toxic wastewater, water use, chemicals use, air pollution, land damage and global warming emissions.
Toxic wastewater: Fracking produces enormous volumes of toxic wastewater—often containing cancer-causing and even radioactive material. Once brought to the surface, this toxic waste poses hazards for drinking water, air quality and public safety:
Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012. This toxic wastewater often contains cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, and has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. Scientists have linked underground injection of wastewater to earthquakes. In New Mexico alone, waste pits from all oil and gas drilling have contaminated groundwater on more than 400 occasions.
Water use: Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well. Fracking operations have used at least 250 billion gallons of water since 2005. While most industrial uses of water return it to the water cycle for further use, fracking converts clean water into toxic wastewater, much of which must then be permanently disposed of, taking billions of gallons out of the water supply annually. Farmers are particularly impacted by fracking water use as they compete with the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry for water, especially in drought-stricken regions of the country.
Chemical use: Fracking uses a wide range of chemicals, many of them toxic. Operators have hauled more than 2 billion gallons of chemicals to thousands of fracking sites around the country. In addition to other health threats, many of these chemicals have the potential to cause cancer. These toxics can enter drinking water supplies from leaks and spills, through well blowouts, and through the failure of disposal wells receiving fracking wastewater.
Air pollution: Fracking-related activities release thousands of tons of health-threatening air pollution. Nationally, fracking released 450,000 tons of pollutants into the air that can have immediate health impacts. Air pollution from fracking contributes to the formation of ozone “smog,” which reduces lung function among healthy people, triggers asthma attacks, and has been linked to increases in school absences, hospital visits and premature death. Other air pollutants from fracking and the fossil-fuel-fired machinery used in fracking have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.
Global warming pollution: Fracking produces significant volumes of global warming pollution. Methane, which is a global warming pollutant 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is released at multiple steps during fracking, including during hydraulic fracturing and well completion, and in the processing and transport of gas to end users. Global warming emissions from completion of fracking wells since 2005 total an estimated 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Damage to our natural heritage: Well pads, new access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure turn forests and rural landscapes into industrial zones.
Infrastructure to support fracking has damaged 360,000 acres of land for drilling sites, roads and pipelines since 2005. Forests and farmland have been replaced by well pads, roads, pipelines and other gas infrastructure, resulting in the loss of wildlife habitat and fragmentation of remaining wild areas. In Colorado, fracking has already damaged 57,000 acres of land, equal to one-third of the acreage in the state’s park system.
Fracking has additional impacts not quantified here—including contamination of residential water wells by fracking fluids and methane leaks; vehicle and workplace accidents, earthquakes and other public safety risks; and economic and social damage including ruined roads and damage to nearby farms.
To address the environmental and public health threats from fracking across the nation: States should prohibit fracking. Given the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts, constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling—much less enforcing such safeguards at more than 80,000 wells, plus processing and waste disposal sites across the country—seems implausible. In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health. Given the drilling damage that state officials have allowed fracking to incur thus far, at a minimum, federal policymakers must step in and close the loopholes exempting fracking from key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws. Federal officials should also protect America’s natural heritage by keeping fracking away from our national parks, national forests, and sources of drinking water for millions of Americans.
To ensure that the oil and gas industry—rather than taxpayers, communities or families—pays the costs of fracking damage, policymakers should require robust financial assurance from fracking operators at every well site.
[Refer also to:
Slide from Ernst presentation From Cape Town to the Yukon in Whitehorse, September 22, 2012