Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Would You Like Your Cancer--By Water or By Air? Next Hydrofracking Meeting: Monday, August 30th

Drinking water contamination is not the only issue with hydrofracking: Waste water contaminated with carcinogens and neurotoxins from the hydraulic fracturing process used to drill for natural gas is expelled into shallow plastic-lined pits and via evaporation, is transformed from water pollution to air pollution for Pennsylvanians to breathe. Do you want Pennsylvania to look like this--and do you want to drink (or breathe) this water?

Posted by: Noel Jones

Having grown up in rural Alaska, I have fond memories of fishing on the weekends with my family, then eating the fish when we got home. Being that Pennsylvania has some of the finest fishing streams in America, I imagine a lot of people reading this blog have similar memories. Well, if hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or "hydrofracking" as it is commonly called, is not stopped in our state, we can kiss all that good-bye, as the Delaware Watershed will be one giant fish kill. And if you like hunting, you can kiss that good-bye too

unless you intend to chase deer between gas wells while shooting at them (and hoping not to hit a gas well). People in rural Pennsylvania, just 2 hours north of us have been duped into leasing 2-acre plots of their land to Big Gas, being told that it won't disrupt their lives at all, that they will just be "putting up a little Christmas tree"--that's what they call the wells. For the record--

The hydrofracking process involves:
  • 5-7 million gals of water sucked from a river or stream for each frack, and each natural gas well can be fracked up to 12 times
  • each hauling of water burns up trucking fuel which adds to both air pollution and noise pollution in the area
  • the pressure of all that water being blown down into the earth and fracturing the shale to release the gas, also risks releasing gas and 596 toxic chemicals into the water tables
  • the wells sometimes explode
  • the waste water, full of gas and chemicals, is either dumped into a local stream, or poured into a plastic-lined pit (pictured above) to evaporate into the air for people and animals to breathe
It also completely destroys your property value. 

But that's not all we have to look forward to. The Delaware Watershed provides drinking water 15 million people in New York, New Jersey and here in Pennsylvania, and Big Gas is poised and ready to risk contaminating the river and streams with 596 known chemicals, among them carcinogens and neurotoxins. That's okay though--if you watch the documentary film GASLAND on HBO on demand, or at one of numerous screenings in NY and PA (at bottom of this post), you will find out that when it gets so bad that you are not only plagued with headaches but are literally lighting your tap water on fire (this is not an exaggeration), getting sick and dizzy, losing motor function and dying of cancer, Big Gas will be kind enough (after you sue them for about year or two) to deliver plastic tanks of fresh water to your doorstep each month that you can ration among your family for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing purposes. I kid you not.

Impossible you say? No one is that evil, greedy and heartless you say? It would never be allowed in America you say? Well, consider this--in 2005, then Vice President, Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburtion, a major player in the Big Gas industry, pushed through legislation exempting natural gas companies from the Clean Water Act--giving them permission to drill at will without mandatory safety studies and oversight by the EPA.  My previous article on this issue shows an aerial photo of New Mexico, which now looks like the circuit board of a computer because it has so many drilling sites cut into its countryside. Large areas of Texas and Colorado are the same. Now they are coming to New York and Pennsylvania to burrow into more of the Marcellus Shale which lies under 34 states in the U.S.

At a recent meeting of concerned residents against hydrofracking held in Bethlehem, one Sierra Club member referred to the Marcellus Shale as "the Saudi Arabia of natural gas." This is not only true, but it is the justification that Big Gas companies are using for hydrofracking process: the need to wean America from our dependence on foreign oil. There is one critical flaw in this logic: over 50% of all natural gas is used to create plastic. That's right, new plastic. More plastic--that's what America needs--not to recycle the millions of tons of plastic we have already created, but to destroy our drinking water, fishing streams, farmland and hunting grounds to make more plastic for Americans to consume and throw away into landfills until they can buy some more.

Being up against Big Gas and it's multi-million dollar lobbying industry can be overwhelming and quite frankly, depressing, but do not despair yet--there are glimmers of hope:

New York this month successfully passed a moratorium on natural gas drilling pending safety studies.

Senator John Kerry has introduced anti-fracking legislation in Congress.

Senator Ferlo and House Representative Phyllis Mundy have introduced Senate Bill 1447 and House Bill 2609 requesting moratoriums on drilling in Pennsylvania.

These recent developments in PA and in our Congress are in preliminary stages, and our senators and representatives need our calls and letters to know that we support them.

Please click the links on the right side bar to state and local government, and write or call the senator and representative that represents your area and ask them to support these moratoriums. In the Easton area, I believe it would be Rep. Freeman and Sen. Mensch. If there is anyone I am leaving out, please post here.

If you would like to get involved with a group of Lehigh Valley residents who are fighting hydrofracking in our state, there will be a meeting on Monday, August 30th at 8:30pm at Lehigh valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 424 Center Street, Bethlehem. Below is contact information for Cathy Frankenberg of Clean Water Action, who will be happy to keep you in the loop:

Catherine Frankenberg, Program Organizer, Clean Water Action
901 North New Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 691-7395, or (610) 691-7396 Fax

Below is a message from the GASLAND team with info on future screenings of the film in NY and PA:
Dear Friends,

Thanks to all of your outstanding efforts, we're on our way to passing the moratorium bill in New York state! But we still have a lot of work to do. So please help us in continuing to spread the word about fracking by contacting your legislatures and joining us at one of our upcoming events.


We're working with Rooftop Films and other activist organizations to bring you a six-city tour of GASLAND. The tour kicks off on August 28, 2010 and includes stops Pittsburgh,Harrisburg, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and in Callicoon, Syracuse , and New York City in New York. Click on your city to get all the info about the screening.


If you're in New York City, please join us at the Mercury Lounge on August 31, 2010 at 6:00 PM for "DRILLED & SCREWED" a Gasland music benefit featuring Run on SentenceChappo and Venessa Bley. Tickets are $10.00 at the door and all proceeds go toward to those affected by natural gas drilling practices. The Mercury Lounge is located on 217 East Houston in NYC.


We are thrilled to be launching our theatrical run at The IFC Center on September 15, 2010 in New York City! We'll let you know when you can start buying tickets. In the meantime, if you and your activist group are interested in hosting a screening at the theater, please email

Thank you again for your continued support. We hope to see you soon!

All the best,
The GASLAND team


Karen Feridun said...

Excellent piece, Noel! Just wanted to add a point and a plug. When the water contaminated by the drilling process goes to the wastewater treatment facility, any reusable water will be removed and the rest will become part of the residue, aka sewage sludge. That sludge will become fertilizer for farmlands, public lands (including playgrounds and parks), and gardens. The EPA requires testing for only 9 heavy metals and sets the acceptable level higher than that in almost any other country. Exposure to sludge has already been blamed for countless illnesses in humans and animals. Two young boys on opposite ends of Pennsylvania died of their exposure from breathing in the dust after dried sludge was spread. A 26-year old man in New Hampshire died after his jammed bedroom window that wouldn't shut allowed the dust to waft into his room from the farm next door for weeks.

Here's the plug. Gasland will be shown at this year's Pennsylvania Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Festival on Friday, September 17th. Clean Water Action will be an exhibitor and several talks on Marcellus Shale are scheduled over the three days of the festival. Visit for more information.

michael molovinsky said...

mr. jones, i'm about as non-green as they come, in both practice and philosophy. never the less, i realize that hydrofracking is pure rape of the environment and truly a dr. frankenstein project. thank you for your energy on this mission. michael molovinsky

noel jones said...

thanks, michael. this is a human issue--as important to conservatives as it is to liberals, because we all need to be able to drink our water without getting cancer or losing motor function, none of us wants our property values destroyed or taken by eminent domain (which is also in the works via "pooling"--if 75% of your neighbors sign up for drilling leases, they are planning on forcing the rest of property owners to rent or sell)--this is a case of Big Gas vs. the little guy, and we have to get enough little guys together to create a force strong enough to fight for our land and our water. not to mention that there are plenty of conservatives who love to hunt and fish and the Delaware Watershed will be destroyed for us all if we let them get away with this.

by the way--i'm a woman. masculine spelling of the name though, so not a bad guess.

i've heard you also have a blog--feel free to post a link, and i'll check it out...thanks for posting!

noel jones said...

Karen, thanks for adding that point about our food--there is so much that is WRONG about hydrofracking that it is hard to remember it all when addressing it! When I was watching the GASLAND film, there was an interview with a couple whose livestock had big patches of hair falling out, and aside from feeling sorry for the animals, I couldn't help thinking, "you know those people need money and they're still going to slaughter those animals and sell that meat." I am more determined than ever to only eat meat from farms that I trust.

Dennis R. Lieb said...


One of the boys you refer to as being killed by sewage sludge was Daniel Pennock. The rights-based organizing classes taught by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF - a Pennsylvania organization) is named after him. This organization has been tracking the Hydro-Fracking issues in PA. along with Clean Water Action and Delaware Waterkeeper Network. They have a radically different approach to fighting such battles than most organizations.

Below is the direct quote from their website about the classes they teach:

"The Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools are a key piece of our community organizing. Named for a boy in Pennsylvania who died after exposure to sewage sludge, the Democracy Schools are one to three-day intensive seminars that examine how communities across the U.S. are beginning to assert local control to protect the rights of their residents, their communities, and nature. We often begin our work with a phone call from a community member. A resident will contact us because his or her community is facing a proposal for an unwanted project – perhaps a factory farm, a quarry, or mining operations. From there, we will often visit with community members, conduct an evening presentation, or meet with elected officials and hold a Democracy School. The Legal Defense Fund has nearly 200 Democracy Schools, graduating nearly 3,000 participants. Participants include many first-time activists, concerned citizens, and local elected officials. There are lots of materials about Democracy School here on our website as well as a schedule of Schools. You can also register for a School from our website. We hope you will join us at an upcoming Democracy School."

I took the Democracy School classes in 2004. I would recommend them to anyone interested in breaking free of the regulatory cattle chute approach to advocacy. Once exposed to their methods you will not look at any of these issues the same way again.

If there is interest I would be willing to see if they would teach a three day class in Easton. Fifteen to eighteen people is optimum. Beyond that the class can't function because of too much down time for questions.


noel jones said...

I would take that class if it were to come to town.

Karen Feridun said...

Yes, I'm one of the co-founders of the United Sludge-Free Alliance, so I know the Pennocks pretty well. They became burned out after years of fighting sludge, but rejoined the fight at our conference last year where Antoinette spoke. They're featured in the documentary I show, Sludge Diet. Anyway, I've been tempted to hold a Democracy School training in the Kutztown area where I'm based. Glad to hear that you found it so worthwhile, Dennis.

myheartislikearadio said...

Excellent work, Karen! And Michael, please join us tonight if you are free. Like Noel says, this issue is a unifying one, and the more voices we have on our side, the more chance we have of stopping what you aptly call a rape.

Anonymous said...

Gasland is a work of fiction and misrepresetation. It is physically impossible for hydrofracturing, which occurs at depths of 5,000 feet or more, to contaminate groundwater, which is typically found at depths of 1,000 feet or less.

noel jones said...

bubba, tell that to the 34 families in Dimock, PA that have had their drinking water destroyed, sued the Big Gas companies, and won their consolation prizes of water tanks delivered to their porches each month to cook, clean, drink and bathe in. meanwhile their property values have been decimated. they couldn't even sell if they wanted to.

and it's not just "hydraulic fracturing" that is the problem--this is a trick that Big Gas uses--claiming that there is no "proof" (i.e., it has not been legally proven--which is very expensive) that "hydraulic fracturing has ever contaminated drinking water"--but they only count the four hours that the chemical-filled water is being injected under pressure into the well as hydraulic fracturing--they don't count anything that happens afterward: pipes bursting underground (like with the BP oil disaster), wells exploding, and toxic sludge being poured into streams or left to evaporate in open pits to become air pollution. they also don't count the millions of gallons of water being pulled from the rivers and streams to frack each well.


furthermore, watch GASLAND on HBO on demand and decide for yourself whether its truth, or bubba's "fiction."

Karen Feridun said...

Unfortunately, natural gas drilling is just as dangerous as Noel describes it. As she says, there are numerous problems. For instance, natural gas itself is contaminating the water. That's why homeowners are able to ignite their tap water. Meanwhile, the contents of the fracking fluid are proprietary. Halliburton successfuly lobbied Congress to be exempted from every major piece of environmental legislation so that they needn't disclose the contents. That means that you can't regulate them. You may say I can't prove they're unsafe, but, given the lack of disclosure, you can't prove they are.

But I find the human tragedies just as heartbreaking as the environmental ones. Just this morning, a friend told me of his recent visit with his elderly aunt and uncle in Ohio who escaped with their lives when their house blew up at 2:30 a.m. because one of the Marcellus Shale drill sites miles away had not been properly capped. Two years later, they're still in litigation over it because the natural gas company has not made any restitution.

Add to those issues the fact that oil companies can compel property owners to become part of a "drilling unit" because enough other land owners in their area signed leases. It's called forced pooling and it's a threat to property owners' rights, just like eminent domain is.

Of course, the insult added to injury is that many Pennsylvanians view drilling as a great source of jobs, yet far fewer jobs than snticipated have been created because the natural gas companies have imported workers from Texas and Oklahoma.

As much as I'd love to see job creation in PA, I'm much more concerned with the long term effects on the environment and on human health. I don't want either one of us to have to prove that something is or isn't safe. I want the guys who will make a fortune on this to prove it's safe. I want them to do their jobs in a way that protects the environment, your health and mine, and respects our right to own property.

You've seen what's going on in the Gulf. Maybe you remember Love Canal and PG&E and "the air quality in Lower Manhattan is safe" right after 9/11. In every instance, we were sold a bill of goods. We're being sold a bill of goods now. You deserve better. We all do.

Karen Feridun said...
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myheartislikearadio said...

Nice screenname, Bubba.
Check out this link, Affirming Gasland:

Karen Feridun said...
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Karen Feridun said...
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Karen Feridun said...
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noel jones said...

The deletions were duplications of Karen Feridun's 2:15 post--sorry Karen--blogger has been glitchy lately. Thanks for posting!

noel jones said...

myheartislikearadio--thanks for posting the link!