By Scott Banbury
States to the North and West of Tennessee―Illinois, Ohio and Arkansas―are already fracked. Other surrounding states―Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky―are in the industry’s sights, and it feels like there’s a big bullseye painted on Tennessee. While the industry has been dog piling on Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arkansas for production, they’ve been greasing the gears of government here in Tennessee, establishing their right to ruin in Illinois and beating back the opposition in North Carolina.
Due to current low prices for natural gas, the industry does not appear to be pulling a lot of permits in Tennessee at the moment, but with new regulations soon to be in place and a looming export market, with accompanying price hikes, they may be booming soon.
New state regulations on hydraulic fracturing, which are due to go into effect on June 18, do very little to protect water, land or air. These rules were drafted in 2011-12 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), with the assistance of the Tennessee Oil and Gas Association, and approved by the Tennessee State Oil and Gas Board in September 2012—just before the board became known as the Water, Oil and Gas Board.
While many organizations, including Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Tennessee Riverkeeper, Harpeth River Watershed Association, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning and more, submitted extensive comments and participated in numerous meetings, both public and private, few of our concerns were addressed and not one of our serious suggestions were incorporated.
These new rules essentially codify current practices, while ignoring mounting evidence nationwide that fracking is fraught with danger—poisoned wells and ground water from migrant methane and fracking chemicals, human and animal sickness from exposure to fumes and ground level ozone formation, polluted streams from run off from well sites and roads, and continuing contribution of fossil carbon to our atmosphere.
Instead, we’re offered rules that effectively deny public notice and participation, shield the industry from having to disclose the chemicals used to frack to the public, fail to protect landowners from damages by not requiring baseline testing of area drinking water wells before the fracking commences and establish an arbitrary 200,000 gallon water use threshold to trigger more stringent requirements, a requirement that may prove to be meaningless as all of the known fracking operations work under this threshold.
The rules have been sitting on the desk of Tre Hargett, Tennessee Secretary of State (who also happens to sit on the Executive Committee of the State Building Commission), since March 20, where they wait for 90 days before becoming the law of the land. During this time the Joint Government Ops Subcommittee on Rules Review may be required by State Administrative Procedures to hold a public hearing. Keep your ears and eyes peeled for action alerts.
On a parallel front, the State Building Commission’s Executive Committee unanimously voted without discussion to allow the University of Tennessee (UT) to move forward with their proposal to frack the school’s 8,000+ acre Cumberland Experimental Forest in Morgan and Scott Counties, despite the overwhelming opposition of the environmental community and concerned neighbors. Sierra Club, Frack Free Tennessee, Student Environmental Network and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment turned out more than 75 people at a rally outside and dominated the public comments inside and despite losing the vote, we made the news in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and even the New York Times, with the Tennessean editorializing on our side.
UT now claims (since last year) that they only want to pursue oil and gas development on the property to “research” best practices, but the paper trail shows that they have been shopping the minerals around for at least eight years with a clear desire for revenue. The proposal is currently out for bid, and will return to the State Building Commission for final approval when UT negotiates a contract with a drilling company. That meeting should be lively as it has come to light that several of the State Building Commission members may have serious conflicts of interest. In the meantime, parameters of the “research” to be conducted, as private companies profit, will be advised by an advisory panel including representatives of the Tennessee Environmental Council, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment and Southern Environmental Law Center.
We have little reason to expect that the Joint Government Ops Committee will reject Tennessee DEC’s proposed fracking rules, and some folks in the environmental community think we should let them go into effect while we bird dog the industry with site visits targeting violations of the new rules in the interest of documenting needed revisions to the rules in a year or so. Others think we should reject the proposed rules, and petition for new rule making, knowing that we have a lot more informed folks ready to drive that process than we did two years ago, and some think that we might challenge some of the more egregious provisions, like the arbitrary 200,000 gallon threshold for chemical reporting, public notice and well sampling on substantive grounds. We also are inspired by the recent bill introduced that would require full public notice of exploration and mining permits, and wish to push for similar legislation.
On the UT front, we’ll be watching the development of “research” parameters closely, turning folks out in opposition to future State Building Commission meetings and engaging UT students who are working on fossil fuel divestment campaigns on their campuses. We’ll also be documenting what is at stake on the Cumberland Forest and positioning ourselves to do a little research of our own.
In the field, Sierra Club, along with partners Frack Free Tennessee, United Mountain Defense and students from University of Tennessee at Knoxville, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Middle Tennessee State University, will be launching an aggressive site violation and water monitoring program this summer, visiting currently permitted sites on public lands across the state. Fruits of this work will be GIS mapping of the industry’s current presence in the state, outreach to impacted communities and constituent building in advance of next year’s legislative session.
In Chattanooga, Stop Fracking Around Chattanooga (SFAC) is rolling out a campaign to pass fracking bans in the Chattanooga City Council and Hamilton County Commission. SFAC will also be embarking on an aggressive landowner/constituent outreach campaign to advise folks of their landowner rights and the dangers of fracking to their quality of life. Their campaign raises awareness of the dangers of fracking in the Chattanooga Shale formation, which contains known concentrations of uranium and radon gas, as well as Chattanooga’s legacy of being once “The Most Polluted City in America” when Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, and the numerous abandoned mines that are being mitigated into perpetuity at taxpayers expense.
Regionally, the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club is networking with sister chapters and others in surrounding states to make sure that we are all sharing our experience with the industry and our state governments in the hopes of avoiding mutual pitfalls or missteps. Toward this end, I have arranged for time and space to have a regional discussion on fracking at the Heartwood Forest Council at Land Between the Lakes on Memorial Day weekend, May 24-27.
We are facing an invasion of the fracking industry. They have their eyes on exploiting oil and gas across two-thirds of Tennessee and we are the only ones that can, or will, stop them. At stake is our water quality, air quality, biodiversity, quality of life and the future of the planet. It is absolutely clear that we must leave all fossil carbon in the ground if we are to avert the worst of climate change. Think globally. Act locally. Join the fight.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Here are some ways you can spread the word to make sure the New Mexico Legislature and Governor Martinez get the message loud and clear.
If you are on Facebook, click here to post the petition to your Wall.
If you have a Twitter account, click here to automatically tweet:
#Fracking is a toxic threat to New Mexico’s precious water. Tell lawmakers to ban it now: http://bit.ly/XVxJsB @CREDOMobile
You can also send the following e-mail to your friends and family. Spreading the word is critical, but please only pass this message along to those who know you — spam hurts our campaign.
Thanks for all you do.
–The CREDO Action Team
Here’s a sample message to send to your friends:
Subject: Ban fracking in New Mexico
New Mexico’s precious water is being contaminated by fracking, a toxic method of oil and gas extraction that generates cancer-causing air emissions and consumes millions of gallons of water.
Much of the water consumed by fracking in New Mexico comes back to the surface laced with toxic chemicals and is dumped into giant open pits, which can vent toxic fumes and leak.
Fortunately, State Senator Bill Soules has introduced a bill to ban this inherently dangerous practice in New Mexico. The fracking industry will work hard to kill Senator Soules’ bill, and know that passing it will be an uphill battle. It’s going to take massive public pressure to overcome the industry’s influence.
Tell the New Mexico Legislature and Governor Martinez: Ban fracking now.
The San Miguel County Commissioners postponed the vote on a moratorium extension until March 12, 2013. Let’s keep up the pressure and hopefully many of us will be able to attend the meeting that day: 3/12/13, 1:30 pm at the courthouse, 500 W. National Ave., Las Vegas.Update on Fracking in San Miguel County:
Also, very important:
SB 547 Ban Fracking in State of NM will be heard Thursday Feb. 28 Conservation Committee Rm 311 at 2:00 pm. Please call & email members of Conservation Committee and tell them to support this bill. Come to the hearing and show your support.
Peter Wirth, Chair – 505 986 4861 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Benny Shendo V. Chair – 505 986 4310 – email@example.com
Joseph Cervantes – 505 986 4385 – Joseph@cervanteslawnm.com
Phil Griego – 505 986 4513 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Martinez – 505 986 4487 – email@example.com
William Payne – 505 986 4703 – firstname.lastname@example.org
William Sharer – 505 986 4381 – email@example.com
William Soules (sponsor of SB 547) – 505 986 4856 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat Woods – 505 986 4393 – email@example.com
John Ryan – 505 238 3733 – firstname.lastname@example.org
And one more thing: If you haven’t signed this petition, please do: www.signon.org/sign/end-fracking-in-new-mexico/?mailing_id=9573&source=s.em.cr&r_by=2572822
P.S. If you want to help in any way, please contact me at email@example.com. Thanks!
The movie “Rooted Lands” about Fracking in Mora and San Miguel Counties will be the featured film at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Institute Wednesday Night movie series
7 PM at the Farmer’s Market pavilion $12 gen. admission, $10 for members, students under 18 and Seniors. Vendors free. More info at www.farmersmarketinstitute.org or (505) 983 7726
South Africa has a huge expanse of open land (the Karoo Basin), and gas companies are jumping at the chance to frack it. However, local populations are vehemently protesting. The fracking operations will certainly bring an economic boom to the area, but at what cost? Fracking has the potential to create serious health issues for the people who have lived in the Karoo Basin for many generations.
As one farmer argues in the video below, “So it can bring in a lot of money for the country, and create a lot of jobs, but what about the future, what will become of the land? As I see it, it is going to give the world a real smack.”
Thanks to Link TV for the use of this video.
http://cts.vresp.com/c/?EcoWatch/fac0ca7938/48a6dd24da/a4a8074839Ban Fracking Campaign, from Ireland to New Mexico
By Kathleen Dudley
Drilling Mora CountyA number of local grassroots groups fighting fracking in New
Mexico are launching a billboard and yard sign campaign.
Citizens from the New Mexico Coalition for Community Rights,
Drilling Mora County, and Committee for Clean Water, Air and
Earth completed the Water, Not Fracking, Community Rights for
Mora and San Miguel Counties yard sign and billboard campaign
this month. Today citizens are installing graphic Coca Cola red
and white cows with strong pronouncements that industry is not
welcome to frack their counties.Joining in solidarity with the work of citizens in Ireland,
people in New Mexico are getting the message out that they do
indeed have the rights to protect their communities from
industry’s assaults against their pristine rural agricultural
towns. While the majority of citizens in both counties support
“no drilling or fracking,” the billboards and yard signs
create a powerful visual representation of the citizens’
voices. They pound the message out more loudly to the State of
New Mexico legislators, government agencies, and Royal Dutch
Shell and their subsidiaries who, through Dillon’s Rule and
pre-emption, can decided what is good for Mora and San Miguel
County over the decision of the majority of citizens.This campaign is an assertion of democratic voice and of the
citizens’ rights to a renewable, sustainable future. Currently
state law makes such pronouncements and actions on the local
level, illegal. Local Community Rights Ordinances with a Bill of
Rights protecting citizens and nature’s rights is an “out of
the box” approach which is gaining momentum across the U.S.
and specifically in Northeastern New Mexico where citizens are
standing up to the powers of the status quo and their bullying
efforts. More than 50 communities across the U.S. have passed
such Community Rights Ordinances thanks to the help of the
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.The City of Las Vegas, New Mexico in San Miguel County, passed
the first Community Rights Ordinance banning fracking last
April. This city law has a Bill of Rights protecting the
citizens rights to clean and ample water, air and land while
writing out corporate personhood. The City of Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania passed a similar Community Rights Ordinance banning
fracking in December 2011, and is the largest city in the U. S.
to take such protective actions.Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.Drilling Mora County
To protect and preserve the water,land, air, health, and culture
of Northern New Mexico
by educating people about the adverse impacts of oil and gas exploration
and production within our Region.mas vale prevenir que curar
SWPA-ESC recommends contacting the following individuals with specific questions on air and water quality testing and concerns. In addition, we have listed several clinical contacts as well. Page 2 lists online resources and links to applicable research.
Ben Stout, PhD
Professor of Biology, Wheeling Jesuit University
(304) 243-2316 officeAir Monitoring
David Brown, ScD
Carl Werntz, DO, MPH: firstname.lastname@example.org
Director – Osteopathic Occupational Medicine Residency, West Virginia University School of MedicinePoison Control Center Philadelphia:
• Dr. Fred Henretig: email@example.com
• Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt: firstname.lastname@example.org
215-590-3335Pouné Saberi, MD, MPH
University of Pennsylvania Occupational and Environmental Medicine
email@example.comLeslie Walleigh, MD, MPH
SWPA-EHP Environmental and Occupational Health Consultant
firstname.lastname@example.orgPeter Rabinowitz, MD, MPH
Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program