Photo: Not an AlternativeBabydolls, behold the obvious: The situation in Japan is horrendous. Indeed, it trumps anything else that might previously have fallen under the aegis of horrendous. Having said that, there is another horrendous environmental threat that is gearing up to gush out of our collective faucets right here in the United States, and maybe even blow them up: hydrofracking.
Hydrofracking — short for “hydraulic fracturing” — is a widespread technique deployed by natural gas companies in which a huge volume of chemicals, sand, and water are pumped underground to break apart rock and release gas. And it’s an extremely serious f**king problem.
The New York Times has done an amazing job of investigative reporting on this issue, and a lot of what I’m about to tell you can be found in their series “Drilling Down,” which includes this awesome interactive graphic. But here are the basics.
In a nutshell, hydrofracking requires proprietary chemicals, some of which are publicly disclosed. The companies that carry out the process will not reveal, however, which of some 350 possible chemicals will be used in any given case, claiming competitive privacy. But many of them are known carcinogens.
When hydraulic fracturing fluids leak into groundwater, they can contaminate nearby drinking water sources [PDF]. Moreover, the wastewater contains heavy metals and radioactive compounds that are naturally occurring in the shale — and that are freed during drilling.
Natural gas companies claim that the wastewater is easily treated to meet the standards for human consumption. But hear this: Pennsylvania water treatment plants have been processing radioactive wastewater 2,000 times more polluted than permitted by federal drinking water standards. To clean it, those plants must dilute the bad water with 2 billion gallons of fresh water. Easy?
Even if you’re not drinking it, this wastewater is a nightmare because there are invariably accidents in hydrofracking — just the way there are in any other drilling process. Spills and leaks can cause methane gas — a greenhouse gas 20-30 times more toxic than CO2 — to penetrate nearby household wells, causing explosions. Indeed, the EPA recently reported that methane leaks from natural gas drilling are 9,000 times higher than estimated.
And, because hydrofracking disrupts fault lines, the process can possibly cause earthquakes. Indeed, Arkansas recently ordered a moratorium on new injection wells, which may have caused 700 small earthquakes in the last six months alone.
Now hydrofracking might be coming to New York State, Broke-Ass’s and 20 million other people’s home turf. Hydrofrackiing isn’t happening in New York yet, and it won’t until they finish the environmental review process. That’s why we need to make ourselves heard about this NOW. We have until APRIL 15 to submit comments to the Delaware River Water Basin Commission regarding our serious concerns about hydrofracking. That’s LESS THAN A MONTH FROM NOW. For god’s sake, comment! Get everyone you know to comment! You don’t need to be Erin Brockovich — just go to a website and get outraged.
But also be informed. Follow the blog of Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Kate Sinding for the latest news. Visit the Catskill Mountainkeeper site. And check out the vids of Broke-Ass talking about it with her famous movie director friend, Ben Younger, who, along with his famous actor buddy, Mark Ruffalo, are fighting the good fight up in the Catskills. (Also check out the vid of Broke-Ass showing Ben around the Rancho del Broke-Ass, and this one of Mark talking about his fracking concerns.)
Broke-Ass will never be famous, but she’s going to speak up. If we can’t even drink the water, “horrendous” won’t cover it. In the words of the kick-ass Björk, “Declare independence: Don’t let them do that to you!”