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Deep Green Resistance had the honor recently of conducting a video interview with long-time peace activist and organizer with Veterans for Peace, Doug Zachary. Zachary, an Austin resident and now a DGR member himself, describes personal experiences seeing and feeling the tragedy of industrial civilization’s destruction of habitat and life.

This interview was conducted for a DGR documentary in progress, On the Side of the Living.

“It’s Fracking Crazy…. And This Is Why We Are Reading News Reports of Civil Disobedience and Destruction of Fracking Equipment”

“When most people ask, “How can we stop global warming?” they aren’t really asking what they pretend they’re asking. They are instead asking, “How can we stop global warming without stopping the burning of oil and gas, without stopping the industrial infrastructure, without stopping this omnicidal system?”  The answer:  you can’t.”  ~ Deep Green Resistance

173 towns in New York have passed a ban or moratorium on fracking. Nationwide in the U.S., some 364 communities have taken action.  And the demonstrations in Balcombe, Sussex England will likely turn away fracking from Britain.

Hydraulic Fracturing 101

Within the past decade, the combination of hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling has opened up shale deposits across the country and brought large-scale natural gas drilling to new regions, making profitable otherwise prohibitively expensive extraction.   Fracking has already destroyed Barnhart, Texas, and more fracking is on its way – unless there is a successful resistance.


Fracking involves much trucking in and out of machinery and disruption of life on the surface level of the land where many creatures live.  Below the surface, fracking violently drills through land integrity to a depth most people can hardly imagine (6000-7000) feet – the size of a high mountain in reverse. Fracking introduces poisonous chemical agents into the earth and groundwater – which cycles back into the people and creatures who live in the area.   It is also industrially intensive, with no long-term studies that prove its “safety” for future generations who live on the land.  In fact, we are seeing both the poisoning of precious groundwater and the stealing of massive amounts of water itself for the industrial process of fracking.

Technical Info:  The fracking process occurs after a well has been drilled deeper than most people can imagine – 7000 feet, like a Sierra mountain in reverse.    Steel pipe (casing) that has been inserted in the well bore is perforated within the target zones that contain oil or gas, so that when the fracturing fluid is injected into the well it flows through the perforations into the target zones. Eventually, the target formation will not be able to absorb the fluid as quickly as it is being injected. At this point, the pressure created causes the formation to crack or fracture. Once the fractures have been created, injection ceases and the fracturing fluids begin to flow back to the surface.

Materials called proppants (e.g., usually sand or ceramic beads), which were injected as part of the frac fluid mixture, remain in the target formation to hold open the fractures. Typically, a mixture of water, propellants and chemicals is pumped into the rock or coal formation. There are, however, other ways to fracture wells. Sometimes fractures are created by injecting gases such as propane or nitrogen, and sometimes acidizing occurs simultaneously with fracturing. Acidizing involves pumping acid (usually hydrochloric acid), into the formation to dissolve some of the rock material to clean out pores and enable gas and fluid to flows more readily into the well.

Where do the chemicals go?  Some studies have shown that anywhere from 20-85% of fracking fluids may remain underground. Used fracturing fluids that return to the surface are often referred to as flowback, and these wastes are typically stored in open pits or tanks at the well site prior to disposal. The process of fracturing a well is far from benign, and easily qualifies as malignant.  Here’s an overview of some of the issues and impacts related to the highly industrialized well stimulation technique which fractures the deep shale of the earth’s surface.

Water Use– In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States each year. Yes, you read that right:  many billions of gallons of water.$File/Draft+Plan+to+Study+the+Potential+Impacts+of+Hydraulic+Fracturing+on+Drinking+Water+Resources-February+2011.pdf

This is approximately the annual water consumption of 40 to 80 cities each with a population of 50,000.

Fracture treatments in coalbed methane wells use from 50,000 to 350,000 gallons of water per well:, while deeper horizontal shale wells can use anywhere from 2 to 10 million gallons of water to fracture a single well: The extraction of so much water for fracking has raised concerns about the ecological impacts to aquatic resources, as well as dewatering of drinking water aquifers: It has been estimated that the transportation of a million gallons of water (fresh or waste water) requires 200 truck trips. Thus, not only does water used for hydraulic fracturing deplete fresh water supplies and impact aquatic habitat, the transportation of so much water also creates localized air quality, safety and road repair issues.

–Sand and Proppants–

Conventional oil and gas wells use, on average, 300,000 pounds of proppant: coalbed fracture treatments use anywhere from 75,000 to 320,000 pounds of proppant: and shale gas wells can use more than 4 million pounds of proppant per well. Frac sand mines are springing up across the country, from Wisconsin to Texas, bringing with them their own set of impacts. Mining sand for proppant use generates its own range of impacts, including water consumption and air emissions: as well as potential health problems related to crystalline silica:

–Toxic Chemicals–

In addition to large volumes of water, a variety of chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The oil and gas industry and trade groups are quick to point out that chemicals typically make up just 0.5 and 2.0% of the total volume of the fracturing fluid. When millions of gallons of water are being used, however, the amount of chemicals per fracking operation is very large. For example, a four million gallon fracturing operation would use from 80 to 330 tons of chemicals. As part of New York State’s Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) related to Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, the Department of Environmental Conservation complied a list of chemicals and additives used during hydraulic fracturing.

Many fracturing fluid chemicals are known to be toxic to humans and wildlife, and several are known to cause cancer. Potentially toxic substances include petroleum distillates such as kerosene and diesel fuel (which contain benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide. Very small quantities of some fracking chemicals are capable of contaminating millions of gallons of water. According to the Environmental Working Group, petroleum-based products known as petroleum distillates such as kerosene (also known as hydrotreated light distillates, mineral spirits, and a petroleum distillate blends) are likely to contain benzene, a known human carcinogen that is toxic in water at levels greater than five parts per billion (or 0.005 parts per million). Other chemicals, such as 1,2-Dichloroethane are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Volatile organic constituents have been shown to be present in fracturing fluid flowback wastes at levels that exceed drinking water standards.

For example, testing of flowback samples from Pennsylvania have revealed concentrations of 1,2-Dichloroethane as high as 55.3 micrograms per liter, which is more than 10 times EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level for 1,2-Dichloroethane in drinking water.

VOCs not only pose a health concern while in the water, the volatile nature of the constituents means that they can also easily enter the air. According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, organic compounds brought to the surface in the fracturing flowback or produced water often go into open impoundments (frac ponds), where the volatile organic chemicals can offgas into the air.

When companies have an excess of unused hydraulic fracturing fluids, they either use them at another job or dispose of them. Some Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) include information on disposal options for fracturing fluids and additives. The table below summarizes the disposal considerations that the company Schlumberger Technology Corp. (“Schlumberger”) includes in its MSDSs. As seen in the table, Schlumberger recommends that many fracturing fluid chemicals be disposed of at hazardous waste facilities. Yet these same fluids (in diluted form) are allowed to be injected directly into or adjacent to USDWs. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, hazardous wastes may not be injected into USDWs.

Moreover, even if hazardous wastes are decharacterized (for example, diluted with water so that they are rendered non-hazardous), wastes must still be injected into a formation that is below the USDW. Clearly, some hydraulic fracturing fluids contain chemicals deemed to be “hazardous wastes.” Even if these chemicals are diluted it is unconscionable that EPA is allowing these substances to be injected directly into underground sources of drinking water.

–Health Concerns–

Human exposure to fracking chemicals can occur by ingesting chemicals that have spilled and entered drinking water sources, through direct skin contact with the chemicals or wastes (e.g., by workers, spill responders or health care professionals), or by breathing in vapors from flowback wastes stored in pits or tanks. In 2010, Theo Colborn and three co-authors published a paper entitled Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective:

Colborn and her co-authors summarized health effect information for 353 chemicals used to drill and fracture natural gas wells in the United States. Health effects were broken into 12 categories: skin, eye and sensory organ, respiratory, gastrointestinal and liver, brain and nervous system, immune, kidney, cardiovascular and blood, cancer, mutagenic, endocrine disruption, other, and ecological effects. The chart below illustrates the possible health effects associated with the 353 natural gas-related chemicals for which Colborn and her co-authors were able to gather health-effects data.

Health effects chart

Natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing chemicals with 10 or more health effects

• 2,2′,2″-Nitrilotriethanol • 2-Ethylhexanol • 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one • Acetic acid • Acrolein • Acrylamide (2-propenamide) • Acrylic acid • Ammonia • Ammonium chloride • Ammonium nitrate • Aniline • Benzyl chloride • Boric acid • Cadmium • Calcium hypochlorite • Chlorine • Chlorine dioxide • Dibromoacetonitrile 1 • Diesel 2 • Diethanolamine • Diethylenetriamine • Dimethyl formamide • Epidian • Ethanol (acetylenic alcohol) • Ethyl mercaptan • Ethylbenzene • Ethylene glycol • Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (2-BE) • Ethylene oxide • Ferrous sulfate • Formaldehyde • Formic acid • Fuel oil #2 • Glutaraldehyde • Glyoxal • Hydrodesulfurized kerosene • Hydrogen sulfide • Iron • Isobutyl alcohol (2-methyl-1-propanol) • Isopropanol (propan-2-ol) • Kerosene • Light naphthenic distillates, hydrotreated • Mercaptoacidic acid • Methanol • Methylene bis(thiocyanate) • Monoethanolamine • NaHCO3 • Naphtha, petroleum medium aliphatic • Naphthalene • Natural gas condensates • Nickel sulfate • Paraformaldehyde • Petroleum distillate naptha • Petroleum distillate/ naphtha • Phosphonium, tetrakis(hydroxymethyl)-sulfate • Propane-1,2-diol • Sodium bromate • Sodium chlorite (chlorous acid, sodium salt) • Sodium hypochlorite • Sodium nitrate • Sodium nitrite • Sodium sulfite • Styrene • Sulfur dioxide • Sulfuric acid • Tetrahydro-3,5-dimethyl-2H-1,3,5-thiadiazine-2-thione (Dazomet) • Titanium dioxide • Tributyl phosphate • Triethylene glycol • Urea • Xylene

While Colborn and her co-workers focused on chemicals used in natural gas development, the chemicals used to fracture oil wells are very similar or the same. Looking at some of the oil wells that have been developed in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the fracturing fluid mixtures include some of the chemicals shown by Colborn to have the potential to cause 10 or more adverse health effects. Information posted hydraulic fracturing fluid chemicals on the FracFocus web site indicates that Bakken Shale oil wells may contain toxic chemicals such as hydrotreated light distillate, methanol, ethylene glycol, 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), phosphonium, tetrakis(hydroxymethyl)-sulfate (aka phosphonic acid), acetic acid, ethanol, and napthlene.

–Contamination and Devastation of Surface Water and Soil 

Spills of fracturing chemicals and wastes during transportation, fracturing operations and waste disposal have contaminated soil and surface waters. This section provides a few examples of spills related to hydraulic fracturing that have led to environmental impacts. Two spills kill fish: In September 2009, Cabot Oil and Gas spilled hydraulic fracturing fluid gel LGC-35 twice at the company’s Heitsman gas well. The two incidents released a total of 8,000 gallons of the fracturing fluid, polluting Stevens Creek and resulting in a fish kill. LGC-35, a well lubricant used during the fracturing process. A third spill of LGC-35 occurred a week later, but did not enter the creek. Fracturing fluid taints a high quality watershed: In December 2009, a wastewater pit overflowed at Atlas Resources’ Cowden 17 gas well, and an unknown quantity of hydraulic fracturing fluid wastes entered Dunkle Run, a “high quality watershed”. The company failed to report the spill.

In August 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) levied a $97,350 fine against Atlas Resources. Another fracturing fluid spill impacts a high quality waterway: In May 2010, Range Resources was fined was fined $141,175 for failing to immediately notify the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection when the company spilled 250 barrels of diluted fracturing fluids due to a broken joint in a transmission line. The fluids flowed into an unnamed tributary of Brush Run, killing at least 168 fish, salamanders and frogs. The watercourse is designated as a warm-water fishery under Pennsylvania’s special protection waters program. Fracturing fluids affect soil and irrigation ditch: In October 2005 a valve on the wellhead of a Kerr-McGee well in Colorado failed. As a result, between168 and 210 gallons of flowback fluids sprayed into the air and drifted offsite, primarily onto pasture land, resulting in a visible coating that was as much as 1/2 inch thick.

–Groundwater Contamination and Devastation–

As mentioned previously, hydraulic fracturing is used in many coalbed methane (CBM) production areas. Some coal beds contain groundwater of high enough quality to be considered underground sources of drinking water (USDWs). In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final study on Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs. In the study, EPA found that ten out of eleven CBM basins in the U.S. are located, at least in part, within USDWs. Furthermore, the EPA determined that in some cases, hydraulic fracturing chemicals are injected directly into USDWs during the course of normal fracturing operations. (Read Laura Amos’s story to learn how hydraulic fracturing has affected her family’s life.) Calculations performed by EPA in the draft version of its study show that at least nine hydraulic fracturing chemicals may be injected into or close to USDWs at concentrations that pose a threat to human health. T

he chart below is a reproduction of the data from the EPA draft study. As seen in the chart, chemicals may be injected at concentrations that are anywhere from 4 to almost 13,000 times the acceptable concentration in drinking water. Not only does the injection of these chemicals pose a short-term threat to drinking water quality, it is quite possible that there could be long-term negative consequences for USDWs from these fracturing fluids. According to the EPA study, studies conducted by the oil and gas industry, and interviews with industry and regulators, 20 to 85% of fracturing fluids may remain in the formation, which means the fluids could continue to be a source of groundwater contamination for years to come. The potential long-term consequences of dewatering and hydraulic fracturing on water resources have been summed up by professional hydrogeologist who spent 32 years with the U.S. Geological Survey: As mentioned previously, anywhere from 20-85% of fracking fluids remain in the ground. Some fracturing gels remain stranded in the formation, even when companies have tried to flush out the gels using water and strong acids.

Also, studies show that gelling agents in hydraulic fracturing fluids decrease the permeability of coals, which is the opposite of what hydraulic fracturing is supposed to do (i.e., increase the permeability of the coal formations). Other similar, unwanted side effects from water- and chemical-based fracturing include: solids plugging up the cracks; water retention in the formation; and chemical reactions between the formation minerals and stimulation fluids. All of these cause a reduction in the permeability in the geological formations. For more details on the studies that have looked at stranded fracturing fluids and the potential for hydraulic fracturing to affect underground sources of drinking water, see Our Drinking Water at Risk, Oil and Gas Accountability Project’s review of the EPA’s study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing of coalbed methane reservoirs on drinking water.

–Air Quality–

In many oil and gas producing regions, there has been a degradation of air quality as drilling increases. For example, in Texas, high levels of benzene have been measured in the air near wells in the Barnett Shale gas fields. These volatile air toxics may be originating from a variety of gas-field source such as separators, dehydrators, condensers, compressors, chemical spills, and leaking pipes and valves. Increasingly, research is being conducted on the potential air emissions released during the fracturing flow back stage, when wastewater returns to the surface. Shales contain numerous organic hydrocarbons, and additional chemicals are injected underground during shale gas drilling, well stimulation (e.g., hydraulic fracturing), and well workovers. The Pittsburgh University Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) has been examining how organic compounds in the shale can be mobilized during fracturing and gas extraction processes.

According to the CHEC researchers, these organic compounds are brought to the surface in the fracturing flowback or produced water, and often go into open impoundments (frac ponds), where the waste water, “will offgas its organic compounds into the air. This becomes an air pollution problem, and the organic compounds are now termed Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP’s).” The initial draft of the New York draft supplemental environmental impacts statement related to drilling in the Marcellus Shale (which is no longer available on-line) included information on modeling of potential air impacts from fracturing fluid wastes stored in centralized impoundments.

One analysis looked at the volatile organic compound methanol, which is known to be present in fracturing fluids such as surfactants, cross-linkers, scale inhibitors and iron control additives. The state calculated that a centralized fracturing flowback waste impoundment serving 10 wells (5 million gallons of flowback per well) could have an annual emission of 32.5 tons of methanol. The U.S. EPA reports that “chronic inhalation or oral exposure to methanol may result in headache, dizziness, giddiness, insomnia, nausea, gastric disturbances, conjunctivitis, visual disturbances (blurred vision), and blindness in humans.” Open pits, tanks or impoundments that accept flowback wastes from one well would have a much smaller emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC) like methanol than facilities accepting wastes from multiple wells. But there are centralized flowback facilities like those belonging to Range Resources in Washington County, Pennsylvania that have been designed for “long-term use,” and thus, are likely to accept wastes from more than one well.

New York’s air modeling further suggested that the emission of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) from centralized flowback impoundments could exceed ambient air thresholds 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) from the impoundment, and could cause the impoundment to qualify as a major source of HAPs. Methanol is just one of the VOCs contained in flowback water. The combined emissions from all VOCs present in flowback stored at centralized impoundments could be very large, depending on the composition of the fracturing fluids used at the wells.

Data released on flowback water from wells in Pennsylvania reveal that numerous volatile organic chemicals are returning to the surface, sometime in high concentrations. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection looked for 70 volatile organic compounds in flowback, and 27 different chemicals showed up. In a health effects analysis conducted by Theo Colborn and others, 37% of the chemicals used during natural gas drilling, fracturing and production (for which health data were available) were found to be volatile, with the ability to become airborne. Colborn and her co-authors compared the potential health impacts of volatile chemicals with those chemicals more like to be found in water (i.e., chemicals with high solubilities). They found that “far more of the volatile chemicals (81%) can cause harm to the brain and nervous system. Seventy one percent of the volatile chemicals can harm the cardiovascular system and blood, and 66% can harm the kidneys,” producing a profile that “displays a higher frequency of health effects than the water soluble chemicals.” The researchers add that the chance of exposures to volatile chemicals are increased by case they can be inhaled, ingested and absorbed through the skin.

Citizens of the gas field are experiencing health effects related to volatile chemicals from pits. In 2005, numerous Colorado residents experienced severe odors and health impacts related to flowback and drilling pits and tanks in Garfield County. According to Dion and Debbie Enlow complained to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission about odors from a Barrett wellpad upwind from their home. The pad had four wells that were undergoing completion/hydraulic fracturing. Dion Enlow complained to the company that the smell was so bad that “I can’t go outside and breathe.” In Pennsylvania, a fracturing flowback wastewater pit just beyond June Chappel’s property line created odors similar to gasoline and kerosene, which forced her inside, left a greasy film on her windows, on one occasion created a white dust that fell over her yard. Chappel and her neighbors lived with the noxious odors until they hired an attorney and Range Resources agreed to remove the impoundment.

In March 2010, a fracturing flowback wastewater impoundment in Washington County, Pennsylvania caught fire and exploded producing a cloud of thick, black smoke that could be seen miles away. For several days prior to the explosion nearby citizens had tried to alert state officials about noxious odors from the impoundment that were sickening their families, but “their voicemail boxes were full.”

–Chemical-laced Waste Disposal, or Not–

It has been reported that anywhere from 25 – 100% of the chemical-laced hydraulic fracturing fluids return to the surface from Marcellus Shale operations. This means that for some shale gas wells, millions of gallons of wastewater are generated, and require either treatment for re-use, or disposal. In 2009, the volume of fracturing flowback and brines produced in Pennsylvania was estimated to be 9 million gallons of wastewater per day, and this figure was expected to increase to 19 – 20 million gallons/day in 2011. The sheer volume of wastes, combined with high concentrations of certain chemicals in the flowback from fracturing operations, are posing major waste management challenges for the Marcellus Shale states. Also, the US Geological Survey has found that flowback may contain a variety of formation materials, including brines, heavy metals, radionuclides, and organics, which can make wastewater treatment difficult and expensive. According to an article in ProPublica, New York City’s Health Department has raised concerns about the concentrations of radioactive materials in wastewater from natural gas wells. In a July, 2009 letter obtained by ProPublica, the Department wrote that “Handling and disposal of this wastewater could be a public health concern.” The letter also mentioned that the state may have difficulty disposing of the waste, that thorough testing will be needed at water treatment plants, and that workers may need to be monitored for radiation as much as they might be at nuclear facilities.

Options for disposal of radioactive flowback or produced water include underground injection in Class II UIC wells and offsite treatment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that Class II UIC injection disposal wells are uncommon in New York, and existing wells aren’t licensed to receive radioactive waste. In terms of offsite treatment, it is not known if any of New York’s water treatment facilities are capable of handling radioactive wastewater. ProPublica contacted several plant managers in central New York who said they could not take the waste or were not familiar with state regulations. Pennsylvania state regulators and the natural gas industry are also facing challenges regarding how to ensure proper disposal of the millions of gallons of chemical-laced wastewater generated daily from hydraulic fracturing and gas production in the Marcellus shale.

Drinking water treatment facilities in Pennsylvania are not equipped to treat and remove many flowback contaminants, but rather, rely on dilution of chlorides, sulfates and other chemicals in surface waters used for drinking water supplies. During the fall of 2008, the disposal of large volumes of flowback and produced water at publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) contributed to high total dissolved solids (TDS) levels measured in Pennsylvania’s Monongahela River and its tributaries: Studies showed that in addition to the Monongahela River, many of the other rivers and streams in Pennsylvania had a very limited ability to assimilate additional TDS, sulfate and chlorides, and that the high concentrations of these constituents were harming aquatic communities.

Research by Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority experts suggests that the natural gas industry has contributed to elevated levels of bromide in the Allegheny and Beaver Rivers. Bromides react with disinfectants used by municipal treatment plants to create brominated trihalomethanes, which have been linked to several types of cancer and birth defects. In August of 2010, Pennsylvania enacted new rules limiting the discharge of wastewater from gas drilling to 500 milligrams per liter of total dissolved solids (TDS) and 250 milligrams per liter for chlorides. The number of municipal facilities allowed to take drilling and fracking wastewater has dropped from 27 in 2010 to 15 in 2011. Disposal of drilling and fracking waste water is going to continue to present a challenge to local and state governments as more wells are developed across the country.

–Chemical Disclosure–

One potentially frustrating issue for citizens is that it has not been easy to find out what chemicals are being used during the hydraulic fracturing operations in your neighborhood. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, in the late 1990s and early 2000s attempts by various environmental and ranching advocacy organizations to obtain chemical compositions of hydraulic fracturing fluids were largely unsuccessful because oil and gas companies refused to reveal this “proprietary information.”

In the mid-2000s, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project and The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) began to compile information on drilling and fracturing chemicals from a number of sources, including Material Safety Data Sheets obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests of state agencies. TEDX subsequently produced reports on the toxic chemicals used in oil and gas development in several western states including Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado, and worked with the Environmental Working Group to produce a report on chemicals injected into oil and gas wells in Colorado. In 2006, the first effort to require disclosure of chemicals was launched. In June of 2006, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project submitted a letter to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) on behalf of five citizens organizations in Colorado. The groups asked that state agencies require disclosure of the chemicals used and monitoring of chemicals and wastes released by the oil and gas industry in Colorado. Since that time the Oil and Gas Accountability Project and others have worked to get disclosure bills passed in states across the country. Wyoming, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Texas now require a certain level of disclosure, although trade secret laws still prevent full disclosure in most states.

–Hydraulic Fracturing Best Practices?  No Practice–

From a public health perspective, if hydraulic fracturing stimulation takes place, the best option is to fracture formations using sand and water without any additives, or sand and water with non-toxic additives.  From a biosystems perspective, there is nothing non-toxic going on with fracking, even if so-called “non-toxic” additives, such as used by the offshore oil and gas industry, were to be implemented.   It is common to use diesel in hydraulic fracturing fluids –  diesel contains the carcinogen benzene, as well as other harmful chemicals such as naphthalene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. According to the company Halliburton, “Diesel does not enhance the efficiency of the fracturing fluid; it is merely a component of the delivery system.” It is technologically feasible to replace diesel with non-toxic “delivery systems,” such as plain water. According to the EPA, “Water-based alternatives exist and from an environmental perspective, these water-based products are preferable.” But groundwater & aquifer depletion being the problem that they currently are, across the globe, using more water for fracking is no solution. Oil and gas wastes are often flowed back to and stored in pits on the surface. Often these pits are unlined. But even if they are lined, the liners can tear and contaminate soil and possibly groundwater with toxic chemicals. As mentioned above, toxic chemicals are used during hydraulic fracturing operations. The same chemicals that are injected come back to the surface in the flowed-back wastes.

–Tips for Landowners & Land Lovers—

Obtaining fracking chemical information: The law requires that all employees have access to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which contains information on health hazards, chemical ingredients, physical characteristics, control measures, and special handling procedures for all hazardous substances in the work area. The MSDSs are produced and distributed by the chemical manufacturers and distributors. It should be noted that MSDSs may not list all of the chemicals or chemical constituents being used (if they are trade secrets). Landowners may be able to obtain copies of MSDSs from company employees, the chemical manufacturers, or possibly from state agency representatives.

Prior to the enactment of some state laws regarding the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing and other drilling chemicals, there were two sources of information on chemicals used during oil and gas development. These sources were: Material Safety Data Sheets and Tier II reports. Now, limited chemical information can be obtained, as well, via web sites such as Frac Focus or state agency sites. But criticisms have been raised regarding fracturing fluid registries, such as they do not provide enough detailed information on chemical concentrations and volumes, nor do they provide information in a format that is easy to use. -Matearial Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs): The law requires that all employees have access to Material Safety Data Sheets, which contain information on health hazards, chemical ingredients, physical characteristics, control measures, and special handling procedures for all hazardous substances in the work area. MSDSs are produced and distributed by the chemical manufacturers and distributors. Citizens may be able to obtain copies of MSDSs from company employees, chemical manufacturers, local or state agency representatives, or via some web sites. -Tier II Reports: The federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities that store chemicals to report products that contain hazardous substances. Some chemicals do not have to be reported, if they are below a certain threshold. Theo Colborn of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange has enumerated several problems with the information in MSDS and Tier II reports.


  1. Hazen and Sawyer, December 22, 2009. Impact Assessment of Natural Gas Production in the New York City Water Supply Watershed. p.5.
  2.  In October of 2004, OGAP filed a Freedom of Information Act request with EPA to obtain the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) supplied to the agency by hydraulic fracturing companies. (Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, Request Number HQ-RIN-00044-05). The information in this table were contained in MSDS sheets from Schlumberger.
  3.  The Frac Focus web site does not allow users to link to lists of chemicals published for individual well sites. To view data on the Bakken Shale wells, go to FracFocus web site and Search: North Dakota. Dunn County. Marathon. Edward Darwin #14-35H. Fracture Date: 7/14/2011; and Search: North Dakota. Dunn County. ConocoPhillips. Intervale 31-35H well. Fracture Date: 8/9/2011.

– See more at: See more at:  

Ample oil, no water.

Fracking boom sucks away precious water from beneath the ground, leaving cattle dead, farms bone-dry and people thirsty.  The Texas Fracking Dust Bowl has begun.

Barnhart, Texas

In the small town of Barnhart, Texas the double impact of climate change and fracking have literally dried out the town’s water supply. In less then two years fracking companies used over 8 million gallons of fresh water leaving the town dry.

It is estimated that by year’s end another 30 small Texan towns will see their water wells go dry due to fracking.

The battle over water has well begun, and has been reported all over the world, including an in-depth article in The Guardian.  And not just in Texas – places as far away as New Bruinswick Canada, Sussex England, and South Wales UK are also battling the oil companies coming in to steal the water of life from the land and all its creatures.


The strategy of Deep Green Resistance starts by acknowledging the dire circumstances that industrial civilization has created for life on this planet. And that these circumstances should be met with solutions that match the scale of the problems.  This is a vast undertaking but it needs to be said:  it can be done.  Industrial civilization can be stopped.

The task of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much personal integrity as possible; it is to dismantle those systems.  Will you join us?

Dunes Sagebrush lizard

Ya-Wei Li, Policy Advisor for Endangered Species Conservation has just reported on a study exposing many questionable aspects to the Texas Lizard “Conservation” Plan.

Crane County, Texas is a land peppered with oil and gas wells, connected by arteries of pipelines and dirt roads. It’s one of the top counties for oil and gas production in Texas. It’s also where the dunes sagebrush lizard is trying to persist amidst all the mayhem. Last June, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decided that it no longer needed to list the lizard under the Endangered Species Act, partly because it had signed a conservation plan (called the Texas Habitat Conservation Plan) for the lizard with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The plan can’t protect the lizard because it doesn’t describe how landowners will protect the species from oil and gas development, off-road vehicle use and other activities that can squish lizards. Without this information, the Service has absolutely no idea whether the plan will live up to its promises.

The Comptroller certainly believes it will. Ever since it signed the plan in April 2012, it’s been reporting every month to the Service that not a single acre of enrolled habitat has been disturbed. That’s right, nothing across over 138,640 acres in some of the most productive oil and gas counties in Texas.

Sound too good to be true?  Ya-Wei and Andy thought so too, and  launched their own investigation.  They compared aerial images taken immediately after an area was enrolled in the Texas plan, with images taken four and then thirteen months later. What they discovered were multiple instances of habitat destruction that the Comptroller was required to report to the Service, but never did. We’re talking about new oil drilling pads, dirt roads and land clearings.

And as it turns out, this so-called “conservation” foundation is directed solely by lobbyists for the Texas Oil and Gas Association!  Legally, every time oil and gas developers disturb lizard habitat, they are required to pay a fee under the Texas plan to offset the impacts of their development activity. If no disturbance is reported, then there are no fees to pay. It’s hard not to suspect a conflict of interest here.  Fortunately, tools like GIS mapping allow researchers to shed light on some of the darkest corners of how states try to avoid listing an endangered species.

Full article here


This essay first appeared on theplanetfeedsus.

Robert Doisneau, Down to the Factory, 1946

an open letter to the national Occupy Wall Street movement, from Aidan Ponyboy Kriese, DGR Austin

Dearest Occupy ::

I write y’all with the greatest admiration, excitement, hope, and humility.

I write with the intention to contribute to the conversations that people are having nationally – and internationally – about what the building of a just and sustainable world would look like.

I know these conversations have been going on for a very long time – longer than I can imagine – and that they did not begin with this movement and will not end with it, either. I know I’m not the only one with the content of this letter on their mind. I write from Austin, Texas, from occupied Tonkawa and Apache territories, and what I know of the other general assemblies and convergences comes through the Internet. I know I’m not privy to the majority of the conversations being had. But while trying to follow what people are calling for in this movement I’ve yet to see stated clearly what I consider to be a very important piece of the puzzle. Please know that I write this from a place of humility and respect, and in the spirit of dialogue for change.

I do not believe that there is hope for justice or a livable planet if the industrial economy continues. I do not believe any reform or technological innovation we have or could think of – even if realized on a massive, global scale – will prevent the destruction of the planet and the communities that are its breath and life. I believe the keys to deep green democracies and to a sustainable and just future are many – but that none of them are possible so long as industrialism continues. In the face of ecological collapse, global warming, and peak oil, any further growth of the global economy – including the U.S. economy – will only worsen the problem.

I believe that our challenge must not be to create more jobs or to grow the economy – but to physically pull apart the infrastructure of the powerful while creating local economies grounded in livelihoods outside the money system, and to redefine growth and economic prosperity altogether.

I know this is an intense thing to say, but please hear me out.

Many folks are and have been raising the crucial point that we can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. There are many progressives who do not find this too controversial a statement – for many of us, it’s become a kind of common sense. For many of us, this becomes yet another reason among many why capitalism cannot continue. But there is an unspoken sentiment we continue to share, nonetheless, that while we may not want a capitalist economy, we still want to salvage some sort of an industrial way of life for ourselves. As Derrick Jensen has pointed out, when you begin to listen to the solutions to the ecological crisis being offered by folks across the political spectrum – it becomes clear that almost all of them agree on one thing: the industrial economy must be salvaged at any cost. The primary objective becomes the preservation of industrial civilization – not the preservation of a living, healing planet.

But look deeply into any of the processes that make industrialism possible, look deeply into the origins of any of its luxuries and commodities, and you will find –  literally – a trail of blood, and a ceaseless taking away from a planet that simply has almost nothing left to give.

We understand that we are in an ecological crisis.

But do we understand just how late the hour is?

97 percent of this planet’s native forests are gone. 98 percent of this planet’s native prairie lands have been destroyed. (1)

Ninety percent of the great ocean fishes are gone. That’s nine out of every ten marlins, tuna and swordfish, to name a few. And industrial fishing practices are not slowing down – they’re accelerating. (2)

We are losing two hundred of the world’s plant and animal communities a day. We are living through the greatest mass extinction this world has ever seen, and it’s being brought about by industrialized human beings. (3)

Our very ability to breathe is made possible by billions upon billions of little organisms – communities of phytoplankton that give this planet, from the depths of its oceans, the oxygen required by so much of life. They’re being wiped out, ruthlessly, by the poisons of our pesticides, by the industrial trawlers that everyday scrape huge swaths of our oceans dead, by the plastics and other pollutants that we dump into the place of our collective birth. Right now, the ratio of plastic to phytoplankton in the world’s oceans is 48 to 1. (4)  The creatures that produce the oxygen we breathe are dying, and more quickly than we can account for with statistics.

The climate change that we are currently experiencing is the result of Co2 emissions from decades ago. (5) That means that the Co2 we are releasing into the atmosphere now – in far greater amounts than before – will impact our global climate in ways that we won’t experience fully for at least another decade.

What we do in the next handful of years – I’m talking less than five – will determine whether or not our grandchildren inherit a livable planet. If we do not reduce our Co2 emissions to zero within that span of time, (6) we will plunge this planet into a process of runaway global warming that could heat this earth as much as 30 degrees within the next century. (7) There literally will be no life as we understand it left.

This is terrifying, and deeply inconvenient, to say the least. But it’s the situation we are facing as living beings.

And how horrible a situation it is, to have so many of our lives dependent on the very system that is poisoning our bodies and destroying our homes. What can we do, when many of us have as our only life support jobs that depend on, and make possible, this destruction?

We say we want jobs. Some of us say we want “green” jobs, jobs that will help us build another infrastructure based on solar panels, wind farms, hydrogen power, and biofuels. At first glance, it seems like this would be the answer for those of us in the United States who want to become independent of oil, who want to leave the destructive path we are on, and who want to provide opportunities for ourselves and for our future generations.

But this is the terrifying and possibly most inconvenient of truths :: there is no sustainable way to continue industrial life, for two major reasons. One is that this planet cannot handle any more extraction and production – what Lierre Keith calls “the conversion of the living to the dead” (8) – and it cannot handle the voracious consumption of products that industrialism requires.

And the other reason is that no amount or combination of alternative sources of energy can run this machine. Wind power could only provide a fraction of the energy currently used by industrialized people. It cannot operate on any meaningful level without fossil fuels. And enormous amounts of land, fossil fuels, and nonrenewable metals are required to build them. The creation of solar panels is very energy intensive, causes great amounts of pollution, requires devastating forms of resource extraction, and they provide very little energy for the amount put into making them. And people living under great lengths of rain and long winter skies (like northern Europe) would need to extract – or steal – sunlight from elsewhere (like parts of Africa). Biofuels require more energy to create than they produce, and the mass production of them will mean, among other things, the theft of land from subsistence farmers in the Global South, the certain destruction of the few remaining stretches of rainforest, and the continued genocide of the indigenous peoples living there. (9)

All the available and conceivable technological solutions are dead ends – just as devastating and unsustainable as fossil fuels and, at this point in the game, impossible to implement on a massive scale.

Especially when we consider how little time we have left to change our ways.

We do not have the time to salvage this machine, even if we could, even if we wanted to, because our window for preventing runaway climate change is rapidly closing, and because we have reached peak oil.

What this means is that all the easily accessible oil reserves are gone (10) and we are nearing a cliff, after which we will enter into an age of energy descent. There is an ever-rising demand for oil that can no longer be met by the amount we can physically extract from the planet. That amount is declining. The amount of energy we have to put in to extract it is becoming greater than the amount of energy we can extract.

This is a situation acknowledged – quietly, though still visibly, if you look close – by people within every level of government, by geologists, by environmentalists, by the oil industry itself. It’s been long predicted, and it’s happening now, and the implications for industrialized humanity are staggering.

The entire industrial infrastructure is based on the use of cheap and abundant fossil fuels. Suburbia itself wouldn’t exist without it. The industrial food system – which uses ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food produced (11) – is entirely dependent on it – for its equipment, for its fertilizers, for its pesticides, for its processing, packaging, and distribution. In the industrial world, we need oil to maintain the electrical infrastructures and to deliver fresh water, and we need fossil fuels to heat and cool our homes (and oil to extract those fossil fuels). Further, oil is used in the production of everything from computers to movie film to heart valves to toilet seats to bras to toothpaste, to name only a handful of the over 500,000 different things purchased and consumed daily by industrialized peoples (12).

The implications of this are many. One of them is that industrial civilization is due for inevitable collapse. Those who run this culture might be able to stave off that collapse by a decade or two through pitched battles for the remaining scraps of oil left. In fact, they’re already trying to do this: witness the Alberta Tar Sands, the single most ecologically devastating project on the face of this earth right now, and one of the most inefficient methods of energy extraction out there.

But collapse is inevitable. If we were to somehow find a combination of alternative energy sources comparable to fossil fuels in efficiency and scope, we would need a few decades at least to create that kind of infrastructure. In the meantime, we’d need cheap fossil fuels to create it. And the era of cheap fossil fuels is rapidly coming to a close.

We can expect a rise of authoritarianism the world over. We can expect the growth and normalization of labor camps globally – including in the U.S. As industrial agriculture becomes less able to rely on cheap oil to run its massive equipment and supply its depleted soils with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, we can expect forced agricultural labor to become an even greater global reality than it is now. It is likely that people who are in debt with banks or governments – for whatever reasons – will be “employed” to work in these camps. We can expect more wars for dwindling supplies of fossil fuel. We can expect cascades of emigrations from city centers to the countryside as life in the cities, without regular importation of food and other commodities, becomes increasingly unbearable. We can expect technological development to continue briefly for an increasingly narrow and privileged sector of the population. And we can expect that those who run this industrial economy will continue to try and push the envelope – to push for “growth” at all costs, and to fell the very last vestiges of life on this planet in the process. Will we join with them in this when they elicit our help?

Whether we help them or not, eventually, through much suffering, all of this will collapse.

The question is :: how much of a planet will we have left once it does? How many more of our kin will have been driven into extinction? How many more indigenous people will have been taken out by this system’s ceaseless genocide? How worse off will the rural poor – the majority of the world – be once the insatiable consumption of industrialized peoples comes at last to an end? How many people – human, or otherwise – will this planet be able to support once this system collapses? Will it be able to support any at all?

For our children’s children, will there be breathable air, and drinkable water?

And for those of us here already, how will we meet this moment? This truly decisive, and precious, and fragile moment, when the future of all living things is at stake?

I understand :: we live in a world dominated by money. By faith in money, and the physical realities created by – and enforced by – that commonly held faith. It makes sense in this situation to call for more employment opportunities, to want a robust economy, to yearn for growth and possibility for more and more of us within the brutal reality we’ve come to know.

But what has this economy’s growth meant for the indigenous peoples of this world? What has it meant for the rural poor who are this world’s majority? What has it meant for the forests, for the rivers, for the oceans and the prairie lands? What has it meant for the nonhuman peoples that are the forests, that are the rivers, the oceans, and the prairie lands?

Everything that furnishes the lives of industrialized peoples comes from a broken somewhere, including the very computer I write on. While many of us within the United States have come to understand that we are the ninety-nine percent without meaningful political power in this country, we have forgotten that though we are five percent of the world’s people, we have taken more than a fifth of the world’s resources. (13) Our relative wealth has meant the senseless tearing apart of the land. Our relative wealth has meant the calculated tearing apart of people living on that land. Our collective wealth would not exist without that intentionally crafted and violently enforced poverty.

To live in a growth economy is to live in an economy of permanent war and colonization, and to live in an economy of extraction is to live in an economy of ecocide.

Do we have the courage to follow the aluminum cans to the gutted bellies of the mountains? Do we have the courage to witness what this gutting has meant for the people that live there?

So many of us witnessed with horror the destruction wrought by the recent earthquake, and before that, a hurricane, in Haiti. Do we know that so many died because of landslides come from the tops of mountains once covered with forests but now laid bare by the insatiable hunger of a few paper corporations?

To live is to kill and to live is to take, but taking must be matched by giving, and to die is meant to feed life beyond us. This is a basic understanding of the thousands of cultures that have lived with respect for the limitations of our home. Reverence for that basic understanding has allowed people to live for thousands of years in places that industrial culture has destroyed in a few centuries.

It is easy for those of us who’ve grown dependent on this economy to forget that it is the planet that feeds us, that houses us, that clothes us. Not this system. This system mangles the fundamental relationships we’re supposed to have here, relationships of reciprocity, of give and take, relationships that respect the limits of all things.

Remember :: jobs only become necessary at that moment when our ability and our right to directly live off of the land we are on, individually and collectively, are taken away from us.

The history of empires past and present is the story of this stripping away of that ability and that right, this violent mangling of the relationships that different peoples have created over time with the places that they live in.

I’m asking that we consider the limitations, and evils, of jobs within this system. I’m asking that we have the courage to remember that in this system wealth is only possible through the exploitation of others, seen and unseen. I’m asking that we begin to excavate, in detail, with one another, the stories of how all peoples in this world have had, at one time or another, their ability to meet their own needs taken from them by outside forces, and how more often than not many of these peoples have joined those outside forces, and taken from others in turn. Whether we name it empire, colonialism, civilization itself – let’s find what is common here, and let’s imagine again something outside of it.

Let’s rebuild the commons. Let’s defend the commons. Let’s build, as much as possible, the kind of dense fabric of reciprocity and mutual aid we need to become independent of this system that is destroying our communities and destroying our only home.

All across this country there are people already doing this. Whether they’re doing the difficult work of establishing cultures of restorative justice, or learning how to make our communities Safe Outside the System, or teaching people about general assemblies and other forms of direct democracy, or building the capacity of communities to grow their own food, or rewilding and healing devastated ecosystems, people are building everywhere pockets of the worlds we need to usher into being.

Let’s also begin to directly resist the relentless destruction that is this economy – the industrial way of life. Let’s heed the words of folks like Troy Davis and work to physically dismantle this system, locally and globally, this system that may privilege some of us now but will be the death of all things in the end.

It won’t happen overnight – I know. Many of us will still need to keep those jobs to survive in the meantime – I know. But all the while let’s build something different for ourselves, many somethings different for ourselves – local, sustainable, life-renewing, directly democratic – so that we can begin to wrench ourselves free from this system where the success of some is the misery of many, where the ability to eke out a survivable present comes at the expense of a livable future. And all the while, let’s not only tend our gardens and march on our financial sectors, but let’s also push ourselves to confront this infrastructure that allows the powerful to exploit the powerless and to destroy the planet, even if it is also the infrastructure that allows me to write to so many of y’all in this way.

And in these moments when we are facing one another in assembly, in the streets, when we are not simply chanting demands to the powerful, but turning instead to one another for answers, let’s ask each other the difficult question :: Do we want them to give us more jobs in a bureaucratic economy of plunder, or do we want to find ways to give each other livelihoods in a grassroots economy of repair? Do we want a more robust U.S. economy or do we want a just and healing future for all?

I’m not saying I know what this looks like.

There are hundreds of thousands of possibilities.

We need them all. And we need them now.

There is no justice or future in industrialism. Let those of us who are most dependent on it – and privileged by it – begin to finally pull it apart while we continue the difficult work of building something better.

Love :: Aidan Ponyboy Kriese

1)    Deep Green Resistance, Lierre Keith, Aric McBay, Derrick Jensen

2)    Endgame, Derrick Jensen

3)  The Future of Life, Wilson

4)    Deep Green Resistance, Lierre Keith, Aric McBay, Derrick Jensen

5)    Climate Change 2007

6)    Ravilious, “Only Zero Emissions”

7)    Deep Green Resistance, Lierre Keith, Aric McBay, Derrick Jensen

8)    “The Tyranny of Entitlement,” Derrick Jensen

9)    Renewable Energy, Ted Trainer

10) Deep Green Resistance, Lierre Keith, Aric McBay, Derrick Jensen

11) The Oil Age is Over: What to Expect as the World Runs Out of Cheap Oil, 2005-2050, Matt Savinar



This is the bucket wheel excavator, one of the world’s most massive pieces of mobile equipment. It’s used in mining to rip into the Earth. The soil and whatnot that is on top of, say, a coal deposit, is known as “overburden,” and a bucket wheel excavator makes short work of it.

How can a culture which creates such monstrosities possibly live harmoniously with the complex set of interdependent relationships that make up the living Earth?

This is madness.