Rather than adding to the frenetic election discussion, I think it a good time to look at the resource that is replacing oil as the most important one for future economies—as well as the survival of just about all species.
The effort to protect U.S. water celebrated victories last month when two natural gas pipelines were scrapped and Congress voted down an amendment to defund the Clean Water Act. We must continue to fight to keep water clean and safe for all to use.
Senator John Hoeven’s proposed amendment to a bigger energy and water spending bill would have barred the Environmental Protection Agency from using federal funds to enforce the Clean Water Act. That 2014 act protects large bodies of water along with streams, wetlands, and lands adjacent to such waters, often used by farmers for drainage and irrigation. When the act is enforced, it safeguards one of the world’s most important resources, drinking water.
One of the biggest threats to water in the U.S. is horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas. Fracking puts the value of special interests and flawed energy products over the protection of water and climate, but recently grassroots lobbying has had success in switching that up.
In late April, the construction of pipelines in New England and New York was rejected, largely due to protests from land owners and conservation activists. In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation denied the permit for a 124-mile pipeline to the Constitution Pipeline Company, a partnership between Cabot Oil & Gas, Williams Partners and Piedmont Natural Gas Company. The pipeline would have affected wetlands, 251 streams and 500 acres of forest. The department said it considered over 15,000 public comments before reaching a decision.
The chemicals and dangerous materials in fracking waste often leak into waterways and are released into the air. A study released last month by the Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group revealed that “fracking released 5.3 billion pounds of methane into the atmosphere in 2014, as much global warming pollution as 22 coal-fired power plants produce in a year.” While much of the U.S. and the world face droughts and water shortages, at least 239 billion gallons of water have been used in fracking since 2005. Then billions of gallons of wastewater filled with toxic chemicals used in fracking can leak from retention ponds, get dumped into streams or escape from wells.
Who benefits from polluted water and the destruction of the environment? In the long run no one. In the short term those at the top of the pyramid appear to benefit, at least materially. Oil and gas companies get as much as they can out of the areas they’re fracking, and then move on to the next area.
Some of these companies even target poorer areas to frack, because they believe those people don’t have the financial resources to challenge them. There must be policies in place to protect and help these areas that face the fracking industrial complex, and we must help get the word out through social media, protests or whichever form of help and support we feel most passionate about. Individual groups of people and their land must not be targeted for the profit of others and have their land and water tainted.
Our gas heating costs might be lower in the short term due to fracking, but at what cost to our health and the Earth? We must dream of an economy that cleans up polluted waters, soil and air. The future well-being of the planet and its people is formed by our response today.