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The Vermont Legislature is closer than ever to passing the first ban on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the country. This dangerous natural gas extraction process is polluting air and drinking water all across America and releasing significant amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere in so doing. Scientists are currently finding that methane is much more toxic to the environment than carbon dioxide and is over 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period.
As most people know, fracking is a process of natural gas extraction from shale deposits beneath the earth, wherein large amounts of water, combined with chemicals and sand, are pumped under high pressure into a drilled gas well. The pressure this creates splits the shale along existing fault lines, allowing the natural gas to flow freely into the well.
Hydrofracturing was first used in Kansas in 1947 and shortly thereafter Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company was given the exclusive right to use the fracturing method. Initially, oil and other more viscous materials were pumped into wells to complete a fracturing job. In 1953, water became a fracturing fluid and various chemicals have been added over the years to increase the fluid’s effectiveness.
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce had this to say about these chemicals: “More than 650 of the products used in fracking contain chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants.” Additionally, 65 to 90 percent of these fracking chemicals stay underground indefinitely.
New evidence from seismologists indicates that fracking enhances the probability of earthquakes,* not good news in any case but especially given that Vermont Yankee is still operating even though its state license expired in March.
Gas companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron spent $726 million lobbying the federal government from 2001–2011. As a result, fracking is now exempt from major federal statues, including:
Safe Drinking Water Act
Clean Water Act
Clear Air Act
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Toxics Release Inventory
National Environmental Policy Act
The U.S. government is playing dice with our health, because our elected officials cannot “just say no” to the money that the oil and gas industry is throwing at them to look the other way. This calls to mind Mussolini’s quote “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”
Natural gas deposits exist mainly in the northwestern corner of Vermont and south along Lake Champlain. These deposits are an extension of Canada’s large Utica shale formation. With weak federal oversight, regulation falls to state officials.
Given this, the Vermont Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Energy is currently taking testimony on a bill, H.464, which would place a permanent ban on fracking in Vermont.
This is something we all can and should support! This bill will be voted on very, very soon.
If you care about the environment, please call your state senators and ask them to support this bill. (If you’re not sure who they are, look them up here: http://bit.ly/mysenator.) Let’s show how the united voices of Vermonters can be more powerful than the well-paid lobbyists of the fossil fuel industry! Let’s ban fracking in Vermont and set a standard for the rest of the nation to follow.
Anne Dillon lives in Waitsfield.