As we come to the end of the Earthworks 25th year, I’d like to give Gwen Lachelt, the founder of the Oil & Gas Accountabilty Project, a final word.
Earthworks became the organization it is today after Mineral Policy Center – founded by Phil Hocker – merged with OGAP.
Yesterday, the Dallas City Council passed a tough new gas drilling ordinance - a big victory for Dallas residents, and for the rest of the country fighting the fracking boom.
Industry is calling the new ordinance ‘a de facto moratorium against drilling in Dallas.’ The city will now require that oil and gas wells cannot be sited within 1,500 of homes, schools, churches, hospitals, parks, places of employment and many other places protected from the impacts of oil and gas drilling and fracking.
Thanks to the city council, Dallas residents, unlike Forth Worth and many other Texas municipalities, needn’t worry about living adjacent to oil and gas development that threatens community health with air, water and soil pollution.
But this isn’t just a victory for Dallas; the ordinance sets a new bar for all communities considering permitting fracking and other unconventional oil and gas development. That’s because Dallas knows the oil and gas industry, and drilling is a Texas tradition. Dallas lies on the western edge of the Barnett Shale where the fracking boom began, so its residents know fracking and its impacts. They’ve been watching their neighbors wrestle with them for years. So if Dallas, Texas passes a de facto ban on fracking, what does that tell the rest of the country?
The BusinessWeek story asks Why Miners Walked Away From the Planet's Richest Undeveloped Gold Deposit and partly answers its own question.
We appreciate the shout-out. But we also want to make it clear that the Bristol Bay Protection pledge and market pressure from the No Dirty Gold campaign are just one part of a broad effort in which dozens of tribes, conservation groups, and business played a part. Credit is due to this diverse coalition of Native Alaskans, commercial and recreational fishermen, chefs, students, and many others.
Senator Fran Pavley’s (D – Agoura Hills) bill to regulate fracking and acidizing for oil and gas passed the California Assembly by a vote of 47-17 yesterday. Earthworks had initially supported SB 4, but we withdrew our support after the bill was weakened at the last minute by the oil and gas industry and California’s surprisingly pro-drilling Governor Jerry Brown, just days before it came to a floor vote.
We know that fracking is a risky process on dry land. Fracking produces toxic wastewater, risks groundwater and surface land and water contamination, and that companies refuse to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process or composition of wastewater. Offshore, the potential for things to go wrong are even higher - any failure, spill or well blowout would immediately result in pollution in coastal waters.
Josh Fox performed a rare feat in cinema – he brought the problem together with the solution – all in one frame.
The scene I’m talking about comes about 2/3 into the new HBO film Gasland 2, when Chris Paine, the filmmaker of Who Killed the Electric Car and Revenge of the Electric Car enters the movie. In addition to making great movies, Chris also lives in Culver City; one of his neighbors is the giant Inglewood oil field. Comprising more than 1000 acres, the oil field and other oil wells around town make Los Angeles home to the largest urban oil and gas field in the country.
Last month I visited Wisconsin’s booming silica sand mining region and saw sandstone bluffs strip-mined for sturdy quartz sand that’s essential for the horizontal hydraulic fracturing process used to extract oil and gas from underground shale formations. I saw how residents there had little protection against silica dust exposure since Wisconsin has no regulatory standards for this relatively new mining industry. (Read my earlier column about it here.)
After Wisconsin, I headed across the Mississippi River to the southeastern corner of Minnesota. The industry is pretty active here too, with several mines and loading facilities and many more proposed, but so is the citizenry, which has been pushing the state to regulate frac sand mines and processing facilities.
In March, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Abbas and Robert Nehman of Allamakee County Protectors at the national Frack Attack summit in Dallas, Texas. This grassroots group of concerned Iowans is leading the fight against frac sand mining in Iowa.
My organization, Earthworks, has a 25-year history of fighting the destructive impacts of mining and the oil and gas industry. After Abbas and Nehman spoke to me about the damage this relatively new mining industry was wreaking in some parts of the country, I wanted to see the impacts for myself. So earlier this month I spent two days on the road in Wisconsin’s Frac Sand Land.