What You Need to Know About Fracking
Whether fracking is legal in our home states or not, it continues to affect us all.
Some sites claim that fracking is totally safe. But experience proves that sending pressurized gas or oil at high-pressure points through metal pipes buried underground is dangerous. In 2017 alone, we’ve tracked pipeline explosions, leaks, and fires that destroyed homes and even killed people. In addition to the danger that occurs when a pipeline leaks or explodes, fracking presents more subtle dangers too. As Bloomberg reports, “last year, Oklahoma experienced more than 1,000 earthquakes measuring at least 3.0 in magnitude; that’s up from fewer than two in 2008. The state is now the most seismically active in the continental U.S. Seismologists believe these quakes are the result of wastewater injection wells used by the oil and gas industry.”
Dominican Sister of Hope Mary Ann Cirillo, OP
Having lived in Oklahoma for the past twenty-seven years, this issue is close to our hearts. Whereas Oklahoma is accustomed to having tornadoes, Sister has seen earthquakes rise tremendously over the past few years; she’s even felt her house shake as a result of them. The tremors, she says, are a physical reminder that “something is destroying and violating the land.”
“We are known for tonadoes, but since we’ve had well water disposals, we have had earthquakes coming through. I have felt several and they just shake the whole house! There is destruction, buildings are toppling down. That’s not normal for Oklahoma. Surely, these well water disposals are violating the land.”
The list of horrors relating to fracking is long.
In 2015 alone, there were nearly six serious pipeline incidents every week. Pipelines built since 2010 fail at three times the rate of pipelines built from 1950-1970. Yet, construction continues. In New York, Spectra’s AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market Expansion) pipeline is being constructed within 110 feet of sensitive materials at Indian Point nuclear power plant, endangering the lives of over 20 million people including the population of New York City. In Canada, fracking has been linked to water contamination. The real question, it seems, is not whether or not fracking is dangerous, but why we don’t hear about the dangers more often.
A new report recommends that areas within 50 miles of the Indian Point power plant have emergency- evacuation plans in case of a nuclear accident wider than the 10-mile radius required by, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Courtney Williams PhD
Courtney Williams, PhD, an anti- fracking advocate who is the vice president of the Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG) and a coordinator with Resist Spectra in New York, says that the ever-present dangers of fracking are “beyond belief for a lot of people.
“I don’t know why the dangers of fracking are not front page news,” she says. “People feel that federal agencies are never going to let the natural gas industry build a gas pipeline next to a nuclear plant. It seems like anyone on the street would say ‘That’s not safe.’ But, guess what? Nobody with the ability to stop it did. They all let it pass. It’s a completely absurd situation.”
What We’re Doing to Help Fight Fracking
Dominican Sister of Hope Bette Ann Jaster, OP
Dominican Sister of Hope Bette Ann Jaster, OP is an ardent anti-fracking advocate. She’s a member of the Resist AIM Pipeline advocacy group, which facilitates learning about and actions against the pipeline. With the group, Sister attends rallies and prayer services, writes to elected officials, campaigns, and even co-sponsors anti- fracking events on behalf of the Dominican Sisters of Hope. She continues to be a model of educating herself and others on the dangers that fracking presents. According to Sister Bette Ann Jaster, the issue of the pipeline is bigger than environmentalism: it’s spiritual.
“Scripture readings invite us to ‘come to the water’ of baptism,” Sister Bette Ann explains. “How can the people come to the water if it has spent nuclear fuel rods in it?”
“We only have so much water on the planet,” she continues. “Where are we going to get water if we’re permanently damaging it with these procedures? We have to care not just about the money, but also about the repercussions down the line.”
Dominican Sister of Blauvelt Ceil Lavan, OP
Dominican Sister of Blauvelt Ceil Lavan, OP has also advocated to prevent the AIM pipeline. When news of the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline crossed her desk, she felt called to do something. In November 2016, she traveled to North Dakota to support and stand in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock
Sister Ceil, along with the greater Dominican community, calls for renewable energy sources such as “wind power, solar power, hydropower, and geothermal natural heat rather than new pipelines.”
This mission brought her to Standing Rock, yet, the trip was about more than Earth for Sister Ceil. She worked with indigenous people in Chicago years ago, and the Cherokee women working with her “opened [her] eyes to understand the injustices that indigenous people in the U.S. still face.”
In addition to being harmful to Earth, pipelines are often built on land that the United States government has explicitly given to Native Americans. For one, the Dakota Access Pipeline is being constructed on land signed over to the Sioux Nation in 1868.Access Pipeline is being constructed on land signed over to the Sioux Nation in 1868.
For Sister Ceil, this direct violation of Native American sovereignty is as disturbing as the environmental damage incurred by fracking.
“Part of the issue is that we don’t want pipelines— it’s a danger to all of us as it could harm the water going under the Missouri River, which is the source of water for 20 million people,” Sister Ceil says. “But it’s also aboutthe support of the sovereignty of indigenous people. We want indigenous peoples’ rights and beliefs to be respected.” As a congregation, we Dominican Sisters of Hope have also stood up against fracking. We deplore-the-advancement-of-the- Keystone-XL-and-Dakota-Access- Oil-Pipelines. We also call for everyone to educate themselves on the dangers of fracking and commit to standing up against it.
How You Can Help Fight Fracking
Make Small Changes
For Courtney Williams, advocacy against fracking is prime. But she has made smaller changes to protect Earth, too. She and her husband invested in a plug-in electric hybrid car so that they are investing in and supporting technology that divests from fossil fuels. (“Someone has to live near the oil well, someone has to live near the pipeline, someone has to live near the refinery, someone has to live near the station where they send the trucks out to fuel these things; all of these people are in danger and are being harmed because I need gas in my car,” she says.)
Aside from switching to a hybrid, there are a myriad of ways to conserve energy in daily life. How many of these have you considered?
Still, Williams notes that these “personal steps are only one piece of helping the environment.” The other piece is actively encouraging the government to follow our lead and stop approving fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
“It’s not just me driving an electric car; it’s our government halting the extraction and use of fossil fuels and throwing all of the billions of dollars that each pipeline costs into renewable energy,” William says.
Join a coalition and encourage community participation
Joining a coalition to fight fracking in your community is a great way to gather with like-minded people and organizations interested in, or already working on, preventing fracking. Here are some coalitions that exist in the New York area that you might connect with or use as a model for a new group:
Right now, the oil and gas industry is pressuring New York to approve yet another risky fracked-gas pipeline. Nearly 100 miles long, Northern Access would cross hundreds of streams and wetlands in upstate New York, including an aquifer that provides drinking water to thousands.
The pipeline needs a state water quality permit from Governor Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in order to begin construction. We’ve made our voices heard by signing a petition that urges Governor Cuomo to stop the Northern Access Pipeline today.
Here are some examples of letters to editors in different states:
Here are some additional sites to follow as you focus on caring for Earth:
In the end, the disadvantages of fracking stretch far beyond physical danger. We Dominican Sisters stand against fracking because we care about the health and vitality of Earth, because we respect Native American sovereignty, because we’ve been to Standing Rock and
seen the heart of the issue for ourselves. As Dominican Sister of Hope Catherine Walsh, OP puts it, this issue is deeply problematic for Earth and all of her inhabitants.
“It is clear that the future of life on Earth is in our hands,” Sister Catherine wrote in a statement. “Poor people in general –those least responsible for climate change– are paying the highest price for our use of fossil fuels.”
As one Dominican family, we call on President Trump to oppose the use of fossil fuels and natural gas and instead call for renewable energy. We ask him to protect the drinking water and sacred sites of our Native American brothers and sisters, and to take steps to lead our country toward a new carbon-free economy in the twenty-first century.