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Josh Fox – the director of Gasland 2 visited Trenton on Saturday night and a whole group of committed environmentalists were right there to greet him. I was fortunate to get a front row seat and to talk with Josh after the film.
He was exhausted but funny after spending the last evening on Bill Maher’s show Real Time and then catching a plane back east. He even treated us to a little banjo playing too. He explained that he wanted to give the folks who are being affected by fracking the first chance to see the film – which will premiere on HBO on Monday July 8 at 9 pm. He also explained that what really matters is showing up to get your voice heard – like we need to do this Thursday at the rally in Trenton to try to overturn Governor Chris Christie’s veto of the fracking waste ban.
Too many folks don’t really understand the concept of fracking and just how much what happens in rural PA will affect those of us who get our drinking water from the Delaware River Basin. We need to educate them – now. Some folks think that exempting the toxic chemicals stew from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act means that the toxic waste is somehow OK if Halliburton uses it but not for any other industry. If they had to give fracking waste an exemption – that ought to be your first clue that it is toxic. They only have to treat it AFTER they unleash it on us all. The fact that they want to dump it here in NJ and that Gov Christie is ok with that – ok enough that he VETOED a ban on fracking waste – ought to tell you that our Gov who appears to care about the Jersey shore is ignorant about our thousands of miles of shoreline along our rivers and creeks and especially the Delaware – our other coast. The fact that he is desperately trying to REMOVE protections in the Highlands where the pipelines are going just shows how much. Some folks mistakenly even believe now that natural gas isn’t even a fossil fuel. Some folks mistakenly think that radioactivity is not a problem with fracking – that radioactive waste is only a byproduct of nuclear energy. They could be not be more wrong. Waste water trucks in Ohio are setting off radioactivity detectors. Who needs dirty bombs when frackers are illegally dumping radioactive wastewater all over the place that is not accepted at treatment facilities where they expected to dump it? Fish are already dying, even lifestock are getting sick and small children like the ones shown in the film are getting nosebleeds and testing positive for chemicals that only come from fracking. Now farmers are not even able to compete with the frackers for the price of water has increased and priced them out of the market. You can’t eat fracked gas, folks.
As a civil engineer – I was appalled that the only thing between the fracked rock and aquifers is a one inch thick wall of concrete – that fails immediately in 5% of casings of fracking wells and has a 50% failure rate 30 years out. The concrete expert in the film points out exactly why 1 in 2 wells will fail after 30 years. Failure of a well casing is what destroyed the Deep Water Horizon drilling rig. In the film Josh was able to film exactly what the surface of the Gulf looked like after the spill. You never saw any of these images before – because the Government allowed BP to control all the media after the spill. The images are just devastating.
As a water resources engineer I know how to calculate rainfall, and I know how the hydrologic cycle works. It does not include artificially injected water deep in the earth that is now toxic and unavailable for use. It appears that they did NOT consult with water resource engineers like me before embarking on this high stakes experiment on the entire planet poisoning our natural water resources. I was stunned when I found out what they are actually doing – because it completely undoes what we water resources civil engineers have worked FOR DECADES so hard to do – clean our water.
Now it isn’t just poor rural farmers being affected – one man in the film just finished building a multimillion dollar beautiful mansion only to have frackers drill horizontally under his home – making it a methane explosion risk. EVERYONE is now at risk. Our country gets much of its produce from California and frackers are drilling close to agricultural areas that can be adversely affected. There are jokes about water buffaloes- delivering clean water are the most commonly sighted animals these days near shale areas. But the point is chilling. People are being deprived of safe drinking water. Because Halliburton was allowed to exempt itself from the SAFE DRINKING WATER law about the same time the NSA decided they needed to spy on folks who would not be OK with the government allowing the wholesale destruction of our water food and air. Even the gag orders placed on the families affected in order to get any kind of settlement, makes warning others difficult.
Aside from fracking in our nation’s most productive agricultural areas, in a surreal moment – a map in the film indicates that they are actually crazy enough to inject fracking water waste into wells along the San Andreas Fault – even though in other states the USGS has concluded that this method of wastewater injection actually can CAUSE earthquakes.
What this film shows is just how much we cannot depend on Democrats to be the protectors of the environment anymore than we can depend on the Republicans to be the virtuous protectors of individual property rights. Teddy Roosevelt is long gone – as is Nixon. Hillary Clinton pushed for fracking worldwide and Barack Obama is shown bragging about how the Government came up with the brilliant idea of fracking in the first place. The film shows the speech where he basically threw us under the bus. It also showed that folks who had considered themselves to be Republicans – independent, rural hardy, folks who worked hard to get what they have and buy property – have no property rights anymore. They lost them at the same time they lost their clean well water. The party that was supposed to be looking out for rural individual property owners – the Republicans – only care about corporate donations to their campaign coffers. And our own President was going to be cutting red tape and giving the green light to those who would destroy our drinking water and increase methane emissions – which by the way – someone needs to tell him – are worse than C02.
We cannot afford a Bridge fuel. Our Climate is already changing. And scientists have determined that we don’t even need to use natural gas – we have clean alternatives.
If you saw Josh Fox on Bill Maher’s show not only did a Harvard filibuster Republican go after Josh which was expected, but as clear proof of Josh’s conclusion in the film that many Dems are no longer helpful- Jonathan Alter goes after him with a vengeance. Alter brings up a Scientific American article that he says proves Josh wrong. I am very familiar with that article – and so I tweeted a link to it immediately to prove that it supports what Josh had to say, NOT what Alter said. Josh immediately saw my tweet and retweeted it to his nearly 12,000 followers. He thanked me for that when I met him.
Josh said to me these folks don’t expect anyone will actually read a scientific reference and so they won’t be called on it. The Harvard guest who tried to filibuster Josh on Bill Maher, referenced an MIT study that was paid for by the gas industry. Josh was not allowed to even get a word in edgewise to rebut. In a funny moment after the screening a girl named Devon Haase who is about twelve years old and very well spoken, got up and stated that she had watched Bill Maher and that she wished she could put tape over the mouth of the Real Time Guest from Harvard. She thought he was very rude.
We have folks spouting references to “scientific articles” assuming nobody will actually read them and find out they state the exact OPPOSITE of what the flack (sorry Mr. Alter – but you are now officially a natural gas flack) citing it says it does. Which is why the only way to fight this nonsense is to use science and call them out immediately.
Another lighter moment in the film came when Rush Holt and Frank Pallone were interviewed and the crowd erupted into cheers for both Congressmen. Much of the film was devoted to how politicians and public servants are made examples of and gone after to be personally destroyed if they speak the truth about the natural gas industry. Then of course you have guys like Ed Rendell who always looked like the cat that swallowed the canary whenever he appeared on MSNBC and now I know why. He was a shill for the natural gas industry. There were only 15 honest Congressmen willing to speak to Josh about fracking and Holt and Pallone were two of them. That is how we got where we are. Very few brave folks in Congress. And the only thing that can make the rest of them do the right thing is if we actually show up. Speak up. Write letters. Join forces. VOTE one of these good men to be our next Senator. Educate your friends and neighbors. Josh is encouraging folks to have house parties to watch the film when it premieres on HBO. The only thing we have to fight them is science, the truth, passion, and our sheer numbers. If you can donate to one of the many groups fighting this right now do that too. Money helps spread the word, but showing up is the way to win.
We have a chance to do something this week – try to convince the Republican legislators that they can disagree with the Gov beholden to the Koch Brothers. And make sure our Democratic legislators show some spine as well and remember that they are supposed to be for the environment and against Climate Change. They can actually do the right thing – override his veto and still get re-elected because we the people put them in office and we the people can keep them there – or vote them out.
I will leave you with this thought. Sandy was not even a hurricane when it hit. And natural gas and methane leaks from obtaining it and transporting it contribute to Climate Change. And there is a deeper, more extensive shale formation called the Utica Shale that actually does lie beneath New Jersey and under our beautiful Delaware river. And the frackers have already mapped out every available water source they can use – and poison – from NY to Ohio to get at the Utica shale before they sell the gas overseas at 8 times the price it is here. They are already drawing water for fracking from South Jersey over the most pristine aquifer in the Eastern United States. And frackers are already being prosecuted for illegally dumping fracking wastewater in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Some folks think the goal here is just to get cheap American made fuel, but what they fail to see is that we are simply a speed bump on the way to sell that fracked gas overseas. The way that the pipeline builders are trashing our northern forests and wrecking our lakes and the way the rural citizens of this country are being treated by the gas industry – turning their rural paradise into something alien that most NJ residents would recognize as the Turnpike near Elizabeth with flares burning off fuel into the night – or Mordor – and you will meet many of them in this film – shows you just how much this industry does not care what or who it destroys in the name of profit.
Thursday June 20 – Trenton – Show up. The Assembly may take up the bill to overturn the veto. Josh traveled across this country to tell this story – the least we can do is show up at the rally this Thursday and tell our elected officials we don’t want our beautiful state trampled and our most precious valuable aquifers poisoned in the mad rush to sell more Climate-Changing fracked fossil fuel to Asia. Allowing fracking waste to be dumped and pipelines all over the state and new gas liquification plants to be built is just feeding an addiction we can’t afford anymore.
Contact your legislators! And in Trenton this Thursday June 20, in the words of Josh Fox – “Show up.”