Energy Versus Fracking
Jun 30, 2014 12:19PM
By Jim Walsh
As of now, there is no fracking in New Jersey. However, the Garden State is not immune to the effects of the shale gas and oil boom wreaking havoc in neighboring states. In fact, one could argue that fracking—the extreme drilling process that injects millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals underground to extract gas and oil—is having a far greater impact on New Jersey than any other state in the country.
This is not to minimize the well-documented public health threats in communities where fracking is taking place but to highlight that the broad fracking footprint spreads far beyond the contamination of drinking water and the air pollution that occurs near fracking sites.
The gas and oil industry has chosen Carteret, Elizabeth, Kearney and Deepwater as dumping grounds for millions of gallon of liquid fracking waste, and truckloads of solid waste produced in the fracking process. Fracking waste is highly toxic and radioactive, yet exempted from requirements of the federal Clean Air and Water Acts. A recent Duke University study found that radium from frack waste contaminated the watershed that supplies Pittsburgh’s drinking water. No such studies have been conducted in New Jersey.
There are also plans to build a plethora of gas and oil pipelines across New Jersey to transport fracked oil and gas from other states. A recent pipeline leak in Michigan spilled tens of thousands of gallons of oil, ruining farmland and threatening drinking water. Closer to home, a recent gas line explosion in Ewing destroyed dozens of homes and caused one fatality. The gas and oil industry is even trying to build gas pipelines through the Highlands and the Pinelands, environmentally sensitive areas specially preserved to protect drinking water supplies.
Meanwhile, climate change may be one of the gravest challenges facing us today. Despite industry claims that natural gas reduces impacts of climate change, studies by Cornell University professors have shown that burning natural gas is more than 20 times more detrimental for the climate than burning coal. Warming of the planet is creating a greater likelihood of hurricanes like Sandy and other natural disasters like forest fires, sea level increases, drought and flooding.
Even the Jersey Shore is under siege from the gas and oil industry. In addition to an aggressive industry push to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling, there is a plan to build a liquefied natural gas port off the coast of Sandy Hook. This would facilitate the exporting of fracked gas to Europe, where prices are as much as six to eight times higher than in the United States. When we start exporting gas, we will see domestic prices rise and increased pressure to frack in New Jersey.
However, there is hope, but only if we quickly move away from dirty fossil fuels and toward a sustainable energy future. Strong public investment in renewable energy sources and conservation can make the difference, but we must act soon. You can start by signing our petition to ban fracking at: Bit.ly/ BanFrackingNowPetition.
Jim Walsh, Mid Atlantic Director, Food & Water Watch. 732-839-0865. [email protected]FWWatch.org.