They have money
While the 99% struggles to pay for energy bills, the Frackers have been raking in profits. And what do they do with these profits? They spend on lobbying against regulations that would protect public health and safety and buying advertisement telling you that “natural gas” is the clean energy of the future. Indeed in the past ten years, the Frackers have spent over $750 million to weaken regulatory oversight in Congress. In New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering lifting the current moratorium on fracking, the Frackers outspent citizen groups by 4 to 1—funneling more than two million dollars into pro-fracking propaganda.
Because of this propaganda, many people believe that “natural gas” is a clean, alternative energy. It is not. Natural gas is methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas that, if released, will lead to accelerated global warming. And despite the fact that methane burns more cleanly and is easier to extract than coal, leaks along production route from the well head to the storage tank through the pipeline to your stove release enough methane to worry about accelerating climate change. Indeed, researchers in Boston have documented at least 22,000 gas leaks in Massachusetts alone. In addition to leaks, several pipelines carrying methane gas have exploded in urban areas causing death and damage in the surrounding areas.
Community groups like the Sane Energy Project and Occupy the Pipeline in New York City are well aware of these risks. They have been fighting the construction of the Spectra pipeline in the West Village that the Frackers are pushing through without proper public oversight.
They have influence
Speaking of weakening oversight, In New York, the Frackers were able to see and comment on fracking regulations before they were made available to the public thanks to their shady relationships with New York Department of Environmental Conservation. When corporations meet with lawmakers and regulators to draft policy without the oversight or inclusion of the public, it gives an unfair advantage to corporations. This anti-democratic behavior pollutes our governments and leads to policies that value corporate interests more than the public good
One of the biggest anti-democratic organizations the Frackers use to get their way is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). At ALEC meetings corporations sit down with lawmakers to draft model legislation that is then introduced in state legislatures throughout the country. Here the Frackers have recently been pushing a model bill that would ensure that they can keep the chemicals in fracking fluids secret—despite the fact that many of the known chemicals cause cancer and may end up in drinking water supplies.
They have exemption
The Frackers and their special concoction of carcinogenic chemicals that they blast into our bedrock to extract methane gas are exempt from many regulations designed to protect the public health. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted the Frackers from key provisions in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Superfund Act (CERCLA), and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1972 through what is known as the “Halliburton Loophole.” Halliburton is the biggest company in the fracking industry and their former CEO, Dick Cheney, played a large role as U.S. Vice President in ensuring the exemptions were passed.
The process of fracking involves mixing millions of gallons of water with toxic chemicals and forcing them down a well at high pressure to break the shale bedrock to release methane. But before the methane is extracted, those millions of gallons of toxic water must be removed and taken to a local treatment facility for disposal. But because of the Frackers exemptions, no national standards exist for the disposal of this toxic waste water, and much of it is taken to treatment plants that are not properly equipped to deal with the chemicals. In addition to the water risks, damage to air quality is well documented with fracking sites having much higher concentrations of volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. Therefore, the exemptions may put people at risk for another Love Canal, a little town that became plagued with cancer, birth defects, and long term illnesses when toxic chemicals (some of which are contained in fracking fluids) seeped into their water supplies and polluted the air.
And they have Cuomo’s ear
Thanks to industry lobbying and economic shortsightedness, Cuomo may begin allowing fracking in New York State as early as March despite public opposition and despite the fact that the EPA will not finish its study on how fracking affects drinking water until late 2014.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of people rallied at the New York State capitol to ban fracking. Groups including Occupy the Pipeline, New Yorkers Against Fracking, Food and Water Watch, came from all over the state to deliver one clear message: fracking is a danger to our health and the climate. Keep the Frackers out.