The Year Of The Ban – 2014

Fracking Bans Sweep Across North America, And That Was Just The Month Of December

A steady uptick in citizen activism, and a broadening awareness of hydraulic fracturing’s negative impact on everything from climate to wildlife to water, resulted in successful anti-fracking measures on ballots across North America in 2014. Then, in mid-December, the state of New York banned it. They’re not the first, Vermont holds that distinction, yet they are the first state with significant shale gas reserves to do so. People are pumped.

Naturally, the issue is emotionally charged. Shale gas development not only damages land, air and water, it destroys people’s lives. Fracking promises to be a factor in the upcoming 2016 Presidential race. Let’s make of sure of it.

Despite customarily downplaying the successes of the anti-fracking movement in the media, activists across the county have racked up a handful of amazing, longshot victories. Fracking bans were won, far and wide, and they can be found in the unlikeliest places.

Denton, Texas

If a ban can pass in the town where the modern day practice of high-volume hydraulic fracturing was born, it can pass anywhere. Even in Pennsylvania.

Texas city bans fracking in its birthplace, court battles loom, Reuters via The Chicago Tribune, November 5, 2014

Quebec, Canada

Couillard rules out fracking, Geoffrey Vendeville, Montreal Gazette, December 16, 2014

“I don’t think there is a big interest in developing this resource on the economic or financial levels. Anyway, the social acceptability isn’t there,” he said in an exclusive interview with Radio-Canada.

Communities 3, Fracking Industry 0 – Quebec, New York and New Brunswick say ‘no’ to fracking!, Emma Lui, The Council of Canadians, December 18, 2014

New York, The Entire Empire State

My lawyer can beat up your lawyer, or at least that how the gas industry usually plays it. While shale gas spokespeople have been busy downplaying the importance of New York’s new ban, make no mistake, they are simultaneously gearing up to retaliate with lawsuits. Here’s just a single example of the industry’s artless combination of sour grapes and wishful thinking.

Pennsylvania energy producers not fazed by New York fracking ban, Sam Kusic, Pittsburgh Business Times, December 17, 2014

They’re totally fazed. It remains to be seen what kind of legal challenge they’ll bring but my prediction, which bucks the trend in current reporting, is that 2015 will be the year of the fracking lawsuit. Hopefully, it will also be the year Democrats show a little spine and embolden more governors like Andrew Cuomo, who aren’t afraid to differ an important public health decision to scientists.

“This is gigantic. This is a huge… It is a huge victory for science,” said Josh Fox on msnbc via RFK, Jr. and Josh Fox Chime in on New York Fracking Ban Victory by Stefanie Spear, EcoWatch, December 19, 2014. “This is precedent setting, across the world.”

Boulder, Colorado

Colorado saw some righteous, citizen-led democracy in action this year, where Boulder city leaders were persuaded to wait for science to catch up with the drilling frenzy.

Boulder County Drilling Moratorium Extended, Jackie Fortier, npr via KUNC, November 13, 2014

“One study in particular, the $12 million National Science Foundation study won’t be concluded until the end of 2017. So the three Boulder county commissioners voted unanimously to extend our moratorium until July 1, 2018 so we would have the benefit of the results of those public health studies… and the ability to have digested the results and taken action accordingly,” Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones said. They chose the July 1, 2018 date in order to read the various studies that are underway on oil and gas drilling.”

Nova Scotia, Canada

Nova Scotia to ban fracking, Bruce Erskine, The Chronicle Herald, September 4, 2014

“Energy Minister Andrew Younger announced, ‘Nova Scotians have put their trust in our government, that we will listen to the concerns and not allow a process that most Nova Scotians are just simply not comfortable with at this time.’ ”

New Brunswick, Canada

Frack-free Friday: Another win for the movement, this time in New Brunswick, Angela Giles, Council of Canadians, September 26, 2014

“Congratulations to Premier-elect Brian Gallant and the New Brunswick Liberals for the win. But an even bigger congratulations goes to the anti-shale gas movement, who worked tirelessly for the past 4 years to achieve broad public support and ultimately unseed the industry-friendly PCs under Premier David Alward.”

California

When it became clear in early 2014 that the water needs of unconventional gas drillers were superseding those of average citizens, parched Californians moved swiftly to protect their precious fresh water resources.

You Thought California’s Drought Couldn’t Get Any Worse? Enter Fracking.Tom Philpott, MotherJones, October 10, 2014

Then, later in the year, California residents learned that their water supplies were polluted eleven times by this controversial drilling method, for which their own governor has voiced support.

Confirmed: California Aquifers Contaminated With Billions Of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater, Mike Gaworecki, DeSmog Blog, October 7, 2014

Voters were quickly galvanized to action.

Santa Cruz becomes first California county to ban fracking, Rory Carroll, Reuters, May 20, 2014

Breaking: Los Angeles Passes Fracking Moratorium, Brandon Baker, EcoWatch News, February 28, 2014

A number of new fracking and frack waste disposal bans are currently under consideration in the Golden State.

Washington, D.C. (Home of The White House)

Americans are nothing if not ironic but, hey, this is what democracy looks like.

D.C. Passes Resolution Prohibiting Fracking in George Washington National Forest, Earthworks via EcoWatch, March 5, 2014

“The Washington, D.C. City Council yesterday passed a resolution opposing hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for natural gas in the George Washington National Forest due to concerns that such development might contaminate drinking water supplies. The 1.1 million-acre forest—located in Virginia and West Virginia—contains headwaters of the Potomac River, which is the sole source of drinking water for the nation’s capital.”

Stalemate, Not Checkmate, In The Delaware River Basin

It was good to hear that former Director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, Carol Collier, is speaking about New York’s fracking ban and its impact on the Delaware River. She was quoted in What New York’s fracking ban means for drilling along the Delaware river by Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania, December 18, 2014:

“I think this decision by New York gives strength to the Commission to move forward,” said Collier. “It’s been in purgatory for so long it would be nice to have a decision so everyone knew what the situation was in the Delaware basin.”

Collier did an impressive job leading the four state agency through Tom Corbett’s open antagonism and a political climate that was hostile toward watershed protection. There was a lot of pressure on the DRBC from all sides, yet Collier calmly and continuously pointed to the lack of scientific study. Now that the science has begun to roll in, I respect and welcome Collier’s opinion on shale gas development in the basin, even if I’m still not entirely sure what it is.

Will Governor-elect Wolf usher in a more productive, data-centric era for Pennsylvania? Can he and Katie McGinty fix the colossal disfunction left behind by the gas-greedy, former PA DEP Secretary Michael Krancer? PA lawmakers may not be big on the Precautionary Principle, but given that more than 248 water supplies have been damaged in Pennsylvania since 2007, that we know of, and the fact that the Delaware River supplies drinking water to 15.6 million people, voters ought to be demanding a permanent ban in the Delaware River Basin, at least.

5 takeaways for PA following New York’s fracking ban, by Marie Cusick, StateImpact Pennsylvania, December 19, 2014

My four takeaways are more of a shout out to Mahatma Ghandi:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Keep Calm, And Ban Fracking!

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