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August 24, 2011

"Fracking": It Sounds Like A Curse

And For Those Who Like to Drink Water or Breathe Air -- It Is

By Stan Shapiro

There is a manmade epidemic of earth and water-destroying pollution that is now spreading throughout Pennsylvania and that could be headed toward the water you drink in Philadelphia. The epidemic is called natural gas fracturing, or, by its colloquial name, “fracking. Two days of protest and strategizing to combat the spread of this avoidable disaster are planned for September 7 and 8. You can get details in our event section in the left column under this article. You will want to attend one or more of these activities.

You’ve probably heard about fracking by now, but if you haven’t, you can find everything you need to know about its devastating impacts in a variety of places. Here’s an article that appeared in Vanity Fair magazine a year ago. Here’s an article that appeared in the New York Times only yesterday. Here’s a website devoted to the issue. But the bottom line is this: massive energy corporations have captured the federal government, and the governments of NY and PA as well. They have caused officials to stand by and do nothing as these goliaths manipulate property owners throughout the Delaware River Watershed to turn over their mineral rights, drill deeply into their land, and pour millions of tons of contaminated water into that same land in order to extract “natural” gas.

Here is how the process of fracking was described in Vanity Fair:

“When a well is fracked, a small earthquake is produced by the pressurized injection of fluids, fracturing the rock around the well. The gas trapped inside is released and makes its way to the surface along with about half of the “fracking fluid,” plus dirt and rock that are occasionally radioactive. From there, the gas is piped to nearby compressor stations that purify it and prepare it to be piped (and sometimes transported in liquefied form) to power plants, manufacturers, and domestic consumers. Volatile organic compounds (carbon-based gaseous substances with a variety of detrimental health effects) and other dangerous chemicals are burned off directly into the air during this on-site compression process. Meanwhile, the returned fracking fluid, now called wastewater, is either trucked off or stored in large, open-air, tarp-lined pits on site, where it is allowed to evaporate. The other portion of the fluid remains deep underground -- no one really knows what happens to it.”

These fracking companies are so powerful they’ve gotten themselves exempted from the requirements of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts that require disclosure from all other businesses about the identity of what they discharge into and onto our planet. But activists have managed, through public hearings and other means to discover what many of these chemicals are. Many are known carcinogens. And the danger we now all face, living in the Delaware Valley, is that many of these chemicals, and the water that they have been injected into, will by one means or another, be poured into the Delaware River ultimately reaching our kitchen sinks.

The good news is that activists are springing up throughout the state to fight the onrushing plague. It is comprised of city and country dwellers, rich and poor, and people of many faiths. They will all be represented at the activities occurring on September 7 and 8. Could we be at a moment when outrage over corporate greed and concern for the environment will converge to build a new and powerful progressive movement? On September 7 and 8 we will begin to find out....

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