Sunday, December 8, 2013

Update on Fracking Dangers

New Billboard displayed on US Highway #1, heading north just inside Lee County, past the Cameron exit.  This is what fracking looks like.  The green pool is the hazardous waste water.  


Hi, all, I attended the Democratic Women’s Meeting March 17, 2013, at the Chatham Library and learned many disturbing facts.

1. I had wondered exactly where the fracking companies would get their water.  They need three to five million gallons of our drinking water for each well they put down.  They can’t get it from our water department, from Jordan Lake or from Lee County (Sanford), where Southeast Chatham still gets ours.  Instead they buy riparian rights from those who live along streams and rivers, and put their pipes in there, so they get our water before we have a chance to.  There are insufficient regulations about people taking water out of streams.  They may not bother to ask.

2.  One of their big problems, and hence ours, is how they handle the waste water poisoned by chemicals which are cancer-causing and birth defect-causing–millions of gallons of that waste water, too, which often brings with it to the surface heavy minerals and radioactive materials.  Sometimes they drill new holes and put it back into the earth.  They apparently can’t do that here in Lee and Chatham, so there is talk in the legislature of hauling it to the coast and doing it there.  Fortunately, this caused a rift in the NC House, where the newest fracking bill was still being debated, as the coastal reps don’t want it there. This issue is still not decided, but the Coast Guard is considering letting fracking fluid be shipped down major rivers and then what?  Dumped in the sea?  And if it spills?  Millions lose their drinking water.

Deep drilling in other states has set off earthquakes, too, if the original drilling does not.  From the Pennsylvania experience (The Marcellus Shale, a very large deposit of methane gas, whereas we have only a small deposit), the companies often simply pour waste water into streams, or bulldoze dirt over the waste pools they’ve created and leave it.  Under the earth it can easily get into our water table.  In fact, right here in our Triassic Basin the gas is not very far below the surface, and only 1000 feet are between the gas and the water table, and in one place, they’re together.  Our gas deposits also go under Jordan Lake.

3.  Yes, fracking near Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant is dangerous.  The plant was built on the assumption that the rock under it would not be moved or disturbed.  The area where they want to drill is right on the earthquake fault, and about five miles from Shearon Harris.  I know from past work for safer nuclear storage, that the biggest danger at Shearon Harris is loss of water to cool both reactor and storage pools, causing a nuclear waste storage pool fire, which could ruin all of central NC and affect two million people.  Imagine the nightmare of trying to evacuate all those people and their cars from the Triangle area.

4.  The fracking companies don’t use Eminent Domain to go under or over people’s property who haven’t signed away mineral rights.  They use state police.  They call it Compulsory Pooling.  If they have 90% of the leases they need in an area, per the rules they’ve developed so far, they can force the other landowners to sell them mineral rights.  

The best option, should it come to fracking becoming legal in the NC Legislature, i.e. the present moratorium lifted in 2015, is for towns, counties, and municipalities to outlaw it or do their own moratorium.  The companies can bypass this, but they will have to sue the towns, etc., and that will get it into court, the only way apparently to get it into court, and that works.  Here’s a link to a NY town that is fighting fracking.  One suing company turned it over to another company, which then went bankrupt.  We can hope.  Meantime, we need to gather citizen support against any fracking in N.C.

Also The Board of Commissioners in Anson County, south of Chatham, Lee, and Moore, since I first wrote this last spring, unanimously voted a moratorium on fracking for five years, and legal experts believe it can be defended well in court.

5.  We learned in the N&O that the gas pipeline which goes through NC from Mexico to New England, is going to be reversed in direction in 2015, the time when the drilling here could start.  Then the Marcellus natural gas will come south.  Some may see this as a solution.  Unfortunately, the NC Legislature, told about this some weeks ago by Senator Ellie Kinnaird during the Senate debate, ignored it.  The N&O had an article about it, saying “NC would be awash in gas.”  I learned more from John Wagner, who works with a Chatham study group on this fracking issue and its science.  Here’s what John said:  

"You are right, it doesn't sound good. We don't want to provide a market for Marcellus-fracked gas, and get hooked into all the natural gas infrastructure for natural gas power plants, buses, and cars. It seems like a cheap energy source now, but it is guaranteed to go up in price and then the state would be tied for decades to a very bad greenhouse gas producing fossil fuel based energy instead of renewable energy.

“Another immediate problem with getting Marcellus methane is that it is very high in radon. Especially for indoor flames-such as cooking stoves-this pumps radon directly into your kitchen and home. This is a real issue, and although the science is there to document the presence of the radon, and the statistics have been produced to show the increase in cancer rates expected from the radon, it is almost totally ignored in the media. The radon is less of an issue with some of the other fracked natural gas sources, but due to the geology of the Marcellus, it is a very serious issue there.”

6.  I learned from another organization that potentially NC has enough wind power to provide energy for all the Atlantic Coast states, a sustainable source, doesn’t hurt us or our farms or our water.  It would employ people in larger numbers.  The fracking proponents say they will bring jobs–but the best estimate is less than 300, probably not the high-paying ones, and many would come already employed from elsewhere.  Also NC ranks fourth in solar energy.  Senator Kinnaird points out that China has solar panels on millions of roofs.  Getting our energy from panels on roofs would also employ plenty of people locally, and we’ve made a good start with solar here in NC.

7.  Right now (early Dec 2013) the Mining and Energy Commission is still debating about whether to release information about the chemicals in the fracking fluid.  Some want to; some say it should all remain a trade secret.  If people get sick from air, water, or earth pollution, doctors need to know what chemicals they've been exposed to.  The drilling companies have been reluctant to release this information before people get sick and even after they do.  They also have paid people in Pennsylvania not to talk about their health problems.  See Gasland II for examples of this!

Contact Elaine Chiosso of Haw River Assembly for more info on everything here:  She presented many of these facts, along with a film made by Chatham folks in Pennsylvania. The facts are scary, but Elaine is firm that we can do this, keep the fracking companies out of NC. 

8.  Between March and December, I also learned of many accidents with drilling sites, transportation.  One fire from a broken pipeline for liquid gas (LNG) has been burning in Alabama for weeks.  Regular frack updates are available from, and the billboard at the top of the blog was put up not long ago on Highway #1, just inside Lee County after the Cameron exit.  Many people and organizations are working to keep it out of our state.

In Pennsylvania, where so much fracking occurred, and many people lost their water, their farming income, saw their children and livestock getting sick, they used to have high income from tourism, dairy products, and many other related things, $392 billion; fracking income has been $22 billion, but tourism, dairy, and many other things were ruined in the process. 

Fracking is protected from EPA Clean water and clean air standards, and both water and air are being polluted by fracking. The Texas company that was going to send thumper trucks to do seismic testing in Lee, Chatham, and Moore, has delayed that, and they’re studying our geology, which is terrible for fracking between the earthquake Jonesboro fault, and the many underground fissures left by coal-mining.  So far only Lee County has mineral rights leases, but they have many in Lee, and Lee is a small county.  

10.  Personally, this hits home for me.  If fracking comes to my neighbor Lee, I’ll have to leave my little farm, which is half a mile from Lee County and the Deep River between us.  I wanted to live here the rest of my life, but I won’t stay to be made sick and/or die because the air, water, and land are polluted.  I’ll fight as long as possible first.  Sadly, I’m not the only one whose life will be ruined.

Our water is at risk for all of us, and our agriculture, our tourism which brings people to NC for its beauty, its mountains, Piedmont, beaches.  

Do we really want to invite in an industrial landscape, with constant traffic of heavy equipment, trucks bearing chemicals and gas, fires where they burn off gas, methane leaks, gas into the ground water, chemical spills?  And it adds to greenhouse gases.  It speeds up climate change.  Methane is worse than carbon dioxide for that.  As one of the Pennsylvania dairy farmers said at the frack free forum in June, “Think of your treasures.”  For me it’s my friends, family, neighbors, this little community of Moncure where I feel at home, and my garden, orchard, chickens, my quiet healthy life farming and writing.  So I fight!  If you haven’t seen Gasland II, by Josh Fox, do.  The newest twist is that Homeland Security is being involved by the fracking industry to spy on fracktivists like me, activists who are fighting fracking.  Is this the life we want in our country in the 21st century?

Judy Hogan

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