Fracking update

I spent a lot of time involved with the eventually successful efforts to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for fossil fuels in New York State. Meanwhile, from my town on the NY/PA border, we have watched a host of negative consequences unfold for some of our PA neighbors. I am also only an hour or so from Cornell University, home to some of the leading researchers on fracking. I was privileged to see these professors speak a number of times, both on campus and at community events.

One of these researchers, Dr. Robert Howarth, has just published a new paper in the journal Biogeosciences about one of the most unfortunate environmental effects of the fracking boom, the release of methane to the atmosphere. Global atmospheric levels of methane are at all-time highs since recording began. The levels started a steep rise in 2006, just as the fracking boom in the United States was picking up.

Having heard and seen so much evidence of methane leakage from fracking, I had already assumed that the two were related, but, in this paper, Dr. Howarth explains the evidence by measuring the amount of 13C present, allowing him to determine the part of the global rise in methane related to fracking, most of which was emitted in the United States. The industry tries to tell us that they are controlling methane emissions through detecting and fixing leaks on the wellpads, but there are many other ways in which methane is released, including venting and flaring at the site, especially in areas where the methane is released when the company is primarily drilling for oil; well leakage that develops over time as casings fail; methane that seeps through the ground to the surface, similar to the way radon reaches basements when it originated thousands of feet below; abandoned wells when fractures intersect with them; compressor station leaks and releases; leakage from transmission and delivery pipes, some of which are over 100 years old; and the production, transport, and use of LNG.

Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but is relatively short-lived in the atmosphere. This makes reducing it quickly imperative in the effort to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It is also why the more ambitious climate plans in the United States, such as those of Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Bernie Sanders, call for a ban on fracking.

The sooner this happens, the better. The economics of fracking are already poor, with a number of companies going bankrupt because of it. In many markets, renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuel energy already and energy storage technology is progressing rapidly while falling in price. It’s time to ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and go all in for renewable energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency.

We need to do all we can to keep the planet livable for people and all other life forms. Banning fracking would be a great step in the right direction.

Poem: Beatitudes

Beatitudes
~~~by Joanne Corey

The priest took a risk in his homily,
asking the President to look
again at the refugee ban,
before a conservative congregation
who thought the Sermon on the Mount
was meant only for long-ago Jews;
the poor and hungry,
those searching for justice and peace
have nothing to do with them,
secure in their homes
with well-stocked kitchens,
their children safe
in schools with locked doors.

Who is my neighbor?
Who is my brother or sister?
Questions as ancient
as Cain and Abel,
confined within church walls.

Still, a faithful few
go forth,
march,
chant,
pray,
demand justice,
give shelter,
        food,
        clothing,
        sanctuary,
dare to be Christian
and American.

Note:  Thanks to Sappho’s Circle and the Grapevine Group for their help with this poem. I decided to share it here as it is related to current events and doesn’t have a long shelf life.

Not One Well!!!!!!!!

Hours ago, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that high volume hydraulic fracturing will be banned in New York State. I am thrilled with the news, if a bit dazed. After spending countless hours on this issue over the last several years, the whole fractivist community is relieved and celebrating!

I will get to slow down on commentary a bit, but I’m sure that I and other NY fractivists will continue to fight expanded fossil fuel infrastructure and waste disposal in NY, as well as continue to help other states to rein in the pollution and health impacts that fracking is causing.

But now, from my home in New York on the PA border, I can proudly state:  Not One Well!

Fracktivist flurry

There has been an uptick in my fracktivist activity lately. This latest activity burst started with the recent New York State Court of Appeals decision upholding the home rule rights of towns in the state to ban unconventional drilling within their borders by using their zoning/land use powers.

There followed a lot of commenting on articles in the press about the decision and also about some important new scientific studies that have been published this month, along with the usual guest viewpoints and letters to the editors that need support or fact-checking.

Earlier this evening, I attended my town board’s meeting, along with a group of fellow residents who have been asking the board to consider a moratorium for years now. Given that the board no longer has the excuse of being afraid that they will be sued, we decided to bring it up again during the open comment period near the end of the meeting.

There were at least fifteen speakers for a town moratorium or ban and only three for drilling if/when the state lifts its moratorium. I even spoke, which is unusual as I prefer to communicate by writing rather than public speaking.

The frustration was that the board wouldn’t answer any questions that we asked. They are beholden to some of the large landowners and people in the trucking and construction business, so they pretend that it is all just a matter of preference, not a matter of science and public safety.

I asked one of the leaders of the anti-frackers how she thought it went, as I really wasn’t sure. She thought it went as well as it could have under the circumstances.

I guess – for tonight – that will have to do.