When last we left our story we had pretty much dispelled the myth that fracking does not have negative consequences in a community. In Part I of this series I detailed my own experience living in a fracking town; in Part II of this series I provided the back story on how fracking came to be unregulated and the consequences that have ensued. In Part III of this series I will show you how the natural gas industry is driving a campaigning that is deliberately misleading.
First though, a correction to Part II. In Part II I stated that the Colorado Springs City Council had already approved fracking inside city limits – this is incorrect. As of February 26, 2013, the Colorado Springs City Council has not yet approved fracking. And as of yesterday, February 25, 2013, the City Council formerly rejected repeated requests for a public hearing on the fracking issue. A second vote on the issue of fracking inside city limits is now pending, and I am unfortunately convinced it will be passed without the benefit of public process.
There are three primary lies that are being disseminated to communities where fracking is proposed: 1) Energy independence for our nation (can’t you just see the flag waving?), 2) Strengthening the local economy, and 3) Safe practices ensure environmental protection. These false claims have tricked countless communities into letting the wolf in the door, and once inside it is too late – the damage cannot be reversed.
Let’s start with the first claim, energy independence for the United States. That sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Not having to import energy from foreign nations, being able to produce energy at home, and creating jobs in the process. There is a problem with this claim though – the natural gas industry is building a pipeline to Texas for the sole purpose of exporting natural gas products – namely natural gasoline and propane. If the natural gas industry is exporting natural gas out of the United States, and is then able to charge more for it on the world market, how does that make America more energy independent? Tell me again that fracking supports U.S. energy independence and not the lining of a CEO’s pocket. These corporations do not care about our community, and they do not care about energy independence for the United States – they care about getting even richer than they already are. The United States currently ranks 9th in the world for natural gas exports – presumably the goal of the natural gas industry is to make the United States the number one natural gas exporter in the world, with the environmental damage left behind in our communities as they go cash their checks.
Let’s look at the second claim, that fracking brings money into a community. There is no disputing this fact on the surface, as there are jobs related to fracking. Unfortunately, the total cost of fracking in a community exceeds the money brought in, over time creating a net income loss for a fracked community. Loss of water wells, polluted rivers, health impacts – all of these cost a community money. This money comes from the citizens long after the frackers have moved on. Not only do we get polluted, we get to foot the bill to try and clean it up. Additionally, many of the jobs “created” by fracking are not jobs for community members. The natural gas companies bring in their own crews, their own managers, and their own contractors. Fracking work is also very specialized and most members of most communities are not qualified. So are there jobs being created? No, more like they are being transferred into a community already filled by industry insiders. Do these jobs contribute to the wealth of the local community? That depends on how you define wealth. When I lived in Battlement Mesa, CO we had one grocery store, three liquor stores, and a bar – that gives you some idea of where the fracking money went. We also had a brand new school paid for by a natural gas company; this school was half empty because so many of the families had moved away.
And finally, the second claim that fracking is a “clean” industry (this is my personal favorite). Recently Colorado University detected and tracked a unique chemical signature that identifies fracking pollution in the air. The study concluded that fracking has been a major contributor to air pollution levels in Erie, CO that are four times greater than the air pollution levels in Houston, TX. And then of course there are the water problems – lots of water problems. The natural gas industry claims that their drilling techniques are safe and the ground water is protected. This is not true. Based on the natural gas industries own reports 6% of the concrete casings designed to protect ground water fail initially, with additional failings as time goes on. Knowing that each well can be fracked every three years it is no small wonder that stresses caused from fracking cracks the concrete casements, allowing fracking fluid to seep into ground water. This process is what allows for “exploding homes” or the famous scene from The Sky Is Pink in which a home owner’s tap water is lit on fire.
My first response to learning all of this information about fracking was “Well surely the State is protecting us, right?” Wrong. The regulatory agency in Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is friendly toward the natural gas industry and is considered ineffective by opponents to fracking. There are 13 inspectors state wide to inspect 48,000 current wells. There is no way these 13 inspectors could inspect these wells in their own lifetimes, let alone as the wells are being actively fracked. Long story short, the State is not our ally to effectively regulate fracking.
Our best and brightest hope to keep the negative impacts of fracking out of Colorado Springs is to be vocal. Write letters, go to City Council meetings (especially go to City Council meetings), and share information with your friends and family. The misinformation being spread by the natural gas industry has powerful messages that are false; we must push back with the facts about fracking, and we must spread the truth far and wide.
Feature image credit to Alastair Johnstone www.alastairphoto.com
Have you had an experience with fracking or know someone who has? Please leave a comment below and let your voice be heard.