The Delaware River provides drinking water to 15 million people in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. That’s roughly five percent of the population of the United States. Environmental activists say that a governmental decision to allow hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking, could put every single one of those people in unnecessary risk.
About a dozen residents from the Greater Red Bank area hooked up with the members of the local Occupy movement recently to spread the word about the dangers of fracking. Armed with pamphlets and stickers, the group called attention to an upcoming vote in Trenton that could clear the way for the controversial method of natural gas extraction in the area of the Delaware basin.
President Barack Obama will meet Gov. Chris Christie, as well as the governors from New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, potentially, to allow fracking in the most densely populated part of the country.
“If we don’t take care of (banning fracking), everything else is moot,” Tinton Falls resident Susan DiGiacomo said at a protest in Red Bank. “If our water and air are polluted, nothing else much matters, does it?”
Fracking for natural gas has been touted, largely in television commercials sponsored by corporations with interests in drilling, as a way to safely and effectively extract natural gas from more than a mile underground, well below, they say, where drinking water comes from. The fracking movement has been called a job creator and a way to help give America energy independence.
Having started out west in Colorado and spread throughout the Midwest and Southern United States in areas like Texas and Arkansas, fracking has crept onward significantly over the past few years, with little in the way of oversight or consideration of its possible negative environmental aspects.
Many believe there just hasn’t been enough time to accurately gauge what fracking means to the environment and people.
In the simplest of explanations, fracking is accomplished by using a pressurized fracking fluid to carve veins into shale rock deep in the earth. The mini-earthquake that results underground creates cracks around the veins, which results in the release of natural gas. The gas is then brought to the surface in the form of a liquid and is then separated.
Though larger concerns regarding the inherent danger in carving up the earth underground have yet to result in any serious issues, the worry that fracking could pollute ground water has, in some places, already been realized. Earlier this year, the state legislator approved a statewide fracking ban, only to see it vetoed by Christie who instead proposed a 1-year moratorium on gas drilling.
In 2010, Josh Fox released a documentary called Gasland, a film designed to highlight the spread of fracking and its dangers. The idea for the film came from an offer for $100,000 Fox received by a gas company to drill on his family’s land in Pennsylvania. In the film, Fox speaks to many people, including those who say they’ve gotten ill because of contaminated drinking water. In some instances, homeowners received court injunctions or settlements from gas companies doing the drilling.
Sue Coen said she hadn’t even heard of fracking until she saw the film at a showing in Monmouth County. The 68-year-old Long Branch resident said she’d never felt obligated to protest a single thing in her life, that is until she saw proof of what fracking has done to some communities throughout the country.
“The result of this could be contamination of drinking water for millions of people,” she said, warning that fracking could lead to other forms of corporatism. “If this is allowed to go on, the only solution will be drinking out of plastic water bottles and then you have another corporation controlling that.”
Another concern, she said, are the amount of chemicals pumped into the ground in the fracking fluid. According to Food and Water Watch, an organization aimed at, in part, curbing fracking throughout the country, fracking is directly responsible for more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near drilling sites in the U.S. The chemicals – of which there are hundreds – in the fracking fluid contain radioactive and toxic substances, some of them carcinogenic in nature.
According to Gasland, there still hasn’t been a complete chemical analysis of what goes in to fracking fluid. Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005 when Vice President Dick Cheney, former head of Halliburton, the corporation that designs natural gas drills and provides fracking fluid, successfully pushed the Energy Policy Act through.
Coen said the amount of shear corruption, let alone the possibility of negative environmental impacts, that forced fracking through should be enough to see it banned in the region.
Coen, along with several of the Red Bank protestors, will make her way to Trenton at the War Memorial on Monday, Nov. 21, to join in on an anti-fracking rally. For imformation about the rally or fracking, visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fracking.
Be sure to watch the accompanying extended trailer to Gasland by clicking the Youtube video icon in the photo box above.