What the frack?

For Your Consideration

editorial@sierrastar.comJuly 30, 2013 

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a process of injecting water and cocktail of toxic chemicals deep into the ground to extract oil and gas from the fissures in the earth's crust. Is this good or bad for America? The pro-fracking arguments are it creates jobs, natural gas burns cleanly, it is good for the environment, and strengthens America's economy and prosperity.

Where most Americans stand on this issue brings to mind the idiom "out of sight, out of mind" and the phrase "confirmation bias." Most Americans and in particular we in the mountains, don't see first hand what fracking does to people, their homes, their land and their community as depicted in the films "Promised Land," "Gasland" and Gasland II."

When it is out of sight, it's pretty much out of our minds. Couple this with the hundreds of millions spent by the Gas and Oil industry on lobbying, bribing politicians, funding think tanks and academic experts and greenwashing the technology through marketing and television ads. What you get is a population predisposed to fracking. You've seen the natural gas ads featuring engineers, chemists and geologists, whether real or from central casting, speaking from the heart. Their job is to make an emotional connection to get you to trust and believe the industry thus setting the stage for confirmation bias, "a tendency to favor information that confirms your beliefs."

Once confirmation bias is baked in the cake, it is unlikely that facts will sway one's opinion. Witness the denial of global warming. It almost takes an act of God to change one's mind. In fact, acts of God have been taking place. The problem is that many don't know about it and when they do learn about it second hand, the oil and gas industry and their minions are able to easily convince those with confirmed biases that it isn't their fault.

Earthquakes - Fracking has been going on since the 1940's. Along with fracking, earthquakes are on the rise. Of course, the oil and gas industry denies any relationship between fracking and earthquakes much like the tobacco industry denied the relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Earthquakes in fracking proximity have occurred near Dallas, Oklahoma City, Youngstown in Ohio, Pennsylvania and many other states. The California's Monterey Shale is located mostly in the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Basin.

Much of it lies along the San Andreas Fault and the myriad of other fault lines. USGS studies show seismic events averaged 21 per year in the U.S. It jumped to 50 in 2009, 87 in 2010 and 134 in 2011. Scientists attribute it to deep injection of fracking waste water and drilling. These are little acts in which God is telling us something — don't frack with Mother Nature.

General information - For every barrel of oil, fracking uses eight barrels of water. Since 1960 oil companies pumped 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water to extract oil in Kern County. Tax payers may be on the hook for $50 billion to build water tunnels. Much of that water will go to fracking. I guess water is a crisis unless it enriches oil companies.

Isn't giving free water to oil companies, socialism corporate style? Fracking is not safe otherwise why did Dick Cheney push the Halliburton loophole exempting fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act? Methane, a gas released during Fracking, is 50 times more potent than CO2. This means for the life cycle of natural gas, it is worse for the environment than coal.

Fracking in CA

The Division of Oil and Gas Resources (DOGGR) does not require a permit to frack a well, only an initial permit to drill or to rework the well. Drillers are not required to disclose that fracking will take place;

DOGGR does not know the location of fracked wells;

DOGGR does not record well casing failures that can lead to spills and contamination of local groundwater supplies;

DOGGR does not require drillers to disclose where contaminated wastewater from drilling operations is being disposed and does not adequately regulate underground injection of fracking wastewater despite having a legal mandate to do so.

DOGGR does not require frackers to disclose the identity and volume of chemicals — which are often toxic and known health hazards, and volume or source of water used in the fracking process.

When it comes to this, Tea Party and Progressives should become strange bedfellows.

The earth connects us all.

Visit www.cleanwateraction.org/fracking-california.

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