There is a PR war going on. The energy and shale gas industry has been going all out to paint their process of Fracking (hydraulic fracturing and gas extraction) as completely safe and non-threatening to fresh water supplies and the environment…
Thousands of ‘stakeholders’, shareholders and beneficiaries (including elected representatives and civil servants) stand to personally gain from the “shale gas revolution”, but the gains are short term. To bolster public opinion on the issue, an army of ‘advocates’ has been deployed who flock to comment sections online, making pseudo-scientific claims that there is ‘zero risk’ of methane contamination of the water table and conveniently omit how the industry has no viable process for which to dispose of spent toxic and radioactive ‘frack fluids’. Their aim is to protect their jobs and industry profits by painting a faux consensus, and to downplay the risks at every turn. Their motives can only be 100% financial. At best, their only answer is to kick this financial and environmental time bomb down the road to the next generation with mountains of toxic waste storage ‘solutions’. Another case giving the industrial lobby another free pass – in exchange for the share of the profits of course.
In the US, some 1000 health professionals have joined together on this issue to demand that central government finally address the issue on behalf of the people of the United States, instead of running interference and providing cover for the shale gas industry. They are as follows (partly condensed version):
Dear President Obama,
Enclosed please find letters from more than 1,000 health professionals nationwide calling for a stop to fracking.
Fracking operations often use toxic chemicals, generate millions of gallons of wastewater that can be laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive material, release asthma-inducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful pollutants into the air we breathe (…)…
Given this toll of damage, these health professionals assert the prudent and precautionary response would be to stop fracking, and are calling for immediate action from your administration and other elected officials to protect public health.
Clean Water Program Director
Environment America Research & Policy Center
Let’s Protect America’s Health from Fracking
February 20, 2014
President Obama, The White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Obama,
As doctors, nurses, researchers and other health and public health professionals, we are deeply concerned about high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and its growing threats to public health and the environment.
Fracking operations (i.e., the full cycle of extraction operations, not solely the fracturing technique) inject complex mixes of toxic chemicals deep underground; generate millions of gallons of wastewater that is often laced with radioactive, cancer and other disease-causing toxicants; release toxic chemicals into the air we breathe, and contribute significantly to climate change.
Each of these threats increasingly takes its toll, including:
• Fracking operations have contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico.
Leaks and spills of fracturing fluid – which often contain known carcinogens (e.g. benzene) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals – have polluted rivers and streams. Other contaminants have flowed into residential wells. And fracking wastewater – often containing heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic) and radioactive materials (e.g. radon, uranium) – has leached from hundreds of waste pits into groundwater.
• Air contaminants released from fracking operations include volatile organic compounds (VOCs); some are carcinogenic, and some damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.
Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Public Health found that people living within a half-mile of gas fracking wells had a higher excess lifetime risk of developing cancer than people living farther away.
• There are a growing number of documented cases of individuals suffering acute and chronic health effects while living near fracking operations – including nausea, rashes, dizziness, headaches and nose bleeds. Physicians reviewing medical records in Pennsylvania have called these illnesses “the tip of the iceberg” of fracking impacts on health.
Given this toll of damage, the prudent and precautionary response would be to stop fracking. Instead, the oil and gas industry is seeking to expand fracking at a frenzied pace, even into areas that provide drinking water for millions of Americans.
In light of this, we urge you to take two immediate steps to protect families and communities on the frontlines of fracking:
First, call for closing the loopholes that exempt fracking from key provisions of our nation’s bedrock environmental and public health laws, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and hazardous waste laws. Second, heed the recommendation of your administration’s fracking advisory committee and declare sensitive areas – including places that provide drinking water for millions of Americans – as “off-limits” to fracking.
Left unchecked, high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing could soon emerge as one of the greatest environmental health threats we have faced in a generation.
We urge you to take action now.
Signed by 1,000 US health practitioners:
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