Seventeen

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If you’ve been following along with Ungagged’s Activist Advent, you’ll recall that behind door number four we talked about the water protectors in North Dakota desperately fighting to keep their drinking water safe from contamination. We support that cause because we agree that water is life.

What you may other now is that here in the UK our water is also under threat from government supported multinational energy giants.

According to researchers who published a paper in the journal Science, Fracking can cause earthquakes that rumble on for months after the controversial gas extraction process ends. Earthquakes are not the only issue though.

Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas have all recorded massively increased air pollution as a result of fracking, including local concentrations of toxic hydrocarbons fumes as well as region-wide ozone pollution, with residents suffering headaches, sore throats, nosebleeds, dizziness and breathing difficulties.

Fracking also requires vast quantities of water, millions of gallons per well, which is stressing local water resources in areas where fracking is commonplace, in some cases making whole towns dry.

Fracking requires thousands of miles of pipelines (which, if poorly maintained can leak and cause explosions) roads, added traffic, drilling pads and related infrastructure which is fragmenting ecosystems, while pollution and radioactive  waste also pose a severe threat to wildlife.

But probably the most worrying thing about asking is that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has just admitted that fracking, in particular horizontal fracking, does indeed contaminate drinking water.

Campaigners were unsurpirised at the news, given that Hormone-disrupting chemicals were found in water at fracking sites as early as December 2013. A study of hydraulic fracturing sites in Colorado found substances that have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer in the water.

A study of Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2011, by researchers from Princeton University, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also found that infants born within a 2.5-kilometer radius of fracking sites have increased likelihood of low birth weight and more health problems. The list of harms done by fracking goes on and on. You can find a fuller list, with very credible sources listed, on the Frack off website, which also includes photos of landscapes devastated by fracking.

Reserves of shale gas have been identified across large swathes of the UK, particularly in northern England. More than 100 licences have been awarded by the government to firms in the UK, allowing them to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas.

Before firms can begin fracking they are supposed to first receive planning permission from the relevant local council, however Sajid Javid has just overturned Lancashire council’s rejection of a fracking site, paving the way for shale company Cuadrilla to drill in the county next year despite huge local opposition. Horizontal drilling will begin as early as April 2017, a UK first, and will be the first time Cuadrilla has fracked under homes. Horizontal drilling  uses significantly more chemical hydraulic fluid than traditional fracturing. It also returns significantly more oil, leading to an oil glut that forced down global oil prices and is now leading a resurgence in sales of gas-guzzling SUVs, trucks and other fuel-inefficient vehicles. That’s bound to help use reach the new targets for reducing emissions we have just agreed to in Paris.

A spokesman from Lancashire County Council, county counciller Marcus Johnstone, said:

“A local council, made up of councillors democratically elected by local people, and charged with serving their interests, is exactly the right body to make decisions on local matters.

It is clear that the government supports the development of a shale gas industry, but I would ask them to do more to address the concerns of local communities and the councillors who represent them by supporting the best environmental controls.”

As ever, we would encourage you to write to your MP or MSP and tell them to respect the will of the people they are supposed  represent. We have firmly said no to this dirty, dangerous method of fossil fuel extraction.

You can also get involved with or donate to anti- fracking groups in your area, such as  Frack Off , Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth

 

Image by John McHarg

Written by Victoria Pearson

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