7.08.2012,9:31 AM
Fracking, the new public enemy?
This is one reason why I sold my place and moved: The Fight Over Fracking.

Gas wells began surrounding my five acres of quiet prairie several years ago, now within less than half a mile. Shortly after two appeared (year and 1/2 ago) close by, I began buying bottled water for drinking and cooking. I knew it was time to move.
“We know there are significant risks associated with ... the pollutants involved in fracking,” says Anthony Ingraffea, a rock-fracture mechanics expert at Cornell University. “These drilling techniques result in amounts of toxic matter so large – in solid, gas, and liquid states – that, in effect, everybody is ‘downstream.’ You can’t get far enough away.”
Testimony and evidence increase around the country that current fracking methods are unsafe, especially to water quality. New peer-reviewed studies add evidence that they contribute to earth tremors. Yet the industry lobbies the media (with their massive well-funded propaganda campaign and threats) and policy makers to refute and ignore all opposition and presented evidence of unsafe practice. As well, most infractions of environmental quality regulations are ignored in enforcement at the state and federal levels.
The growth of fracking was given further impetus by a provision in the 2005 Energy Act, known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempted gas drilling from EPA enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result, gas companies are not required to report the chemicals they injected into underground gas veins across the country.
In response to mounting public pressure, and with growing concern amongst the scientific community, the federal government created a seven-person panel overseen by energy secretary Steven Chu. Their task is to study the environmental impacts of fracking and recommend guidelines for state and federal regulators. The panel is led by former CIA chief John Deutch, currently director of Cheniere Energy, a Houston-based natural gas firm.
“It’s worrisome that the panel is frontloaded by advocates of gas drilling,” he says. “There is no one with established scientific credentials with a history of saying, ‘These are the risks,’ no one who has a track record of looking at issues such as drinking water contamination in the past three years. Why not pick experienced people?”
In addition to Fox, several other groups and individuals are actively speaking out to increase public awareness as well as motivating accountability by industry and public policy makers. But the task is daunting when the natural gas industry's power is based on a bottomless pool of money. 
“The gas industry has increased its lobbying efforts at the federal level considerably in the last decade,” says Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics. “In 2002, they spent $300,000 at the federal level. So far this year, they are on track to spend $2 million.” The numbers get even larger at the state level, where the mountains of cash reflect the size of the local political stakes. According to Common Cause, gas companies spent $2.87 million last year in New York alone fighting a temporary fracking moratorium. Direct lobbying investment is matched by the industry’s latest media campaign, launched in 2009, which spread an initial $80 million among a bevy of heavyweight advertising and p.r. firms, including Hill & Knowlton, a legendary D.C. firm that also represents the nuclear industry and specializes in the creation of fake grassroots organizations.   
People living in most urban areas remain unaffected, which reinforces their belief in the industry-driven propaganda and accompanied by apathy. However, several small communities around the country are instituting anti-fracking regulations, and a few larger municipalities are following suit.

Although last year the city of Fort Worth, TX, passed a moratorium on new gas wells within the city, I have noticed over the last two months several new wells established in and around downtown and the outskirts. A large well was recently installed within a few hundred yards of the high school building of Aledo, a small community twenty miles west of Fort Worth and where I temporarily live. 

Ingraffea is right, especially here in Texas where gas and oil are King, at the expense of public and environmental health and safety: "You can’t get far enough away."

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posted by Macrobe
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