Tag Archives: renewable energy

Fracking is Back on Maryland’s Table and State Government Means Business

Claire at fracking rally

It was a relief when the fracking moratorium passed in Maryland last legislative session. It gave those of us fighting to stop fracking a chance to take a breath. Turns out it’s not much of a break. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is following state government orders to finalize regulations for fracking in Maryland by October 1, 2016. Once approved, these regulations will become law when the moratorium lifts in October 2017, and we’ve got a governor that is eager to get going on fracking. The only way to stop fracking from coming to Maryland will be to pass a new law this legislative session banning it. No easy task and one that must be accomplished.

I testified at the MDE public comment meeting last night on the proposed regulations and am posting my testimony addressed to MDE, hoping to generate interest in this profoundly serious issue. Once Maryland is opened to fracking, it will be near impossible to turn back.

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Facts. Facts are interesting, because there’s a personal filter involved in perceiving and accepting facts. People pick and choose which facts to believe are facts. Even when facts are scientifically validated, people choose whether or not to believe these facts are scientifically valid. Tonight citizens will present proven facts that support the unmistakable reality that fracking will put our citizens, our state, and our climate in serious jeopardy. Since the Maryland moratorium on fracking, more scientific studies have confirmed that fracking contaminates water and air. Which facts will our state government choose to believe and act on?

As a mother, grandmother, and environmental educator, I have spent years in Maryland presenting facts about slickwater high-volume hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking. Facts validated by scientific studies. Facts born from undeniable experiences of people on the front lines of fracking. People whose water has been contaminated, who have lost the value of their homes because no one wants to buy a house that no longer has safe water; because no one wants to buy a house where it is questionable to breathe the air. Farmers whose livestock has been poisoned by fracking runoff or given birth to profound, shocking deformities. Mothers, fathers, seniors, children who have experienced rashes that cover their body, ringing in their ears, nosebleeds, debilitating headaches, loss of smell, loss of taste, gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, neuropathy and cancer. All because they have been exposed to toxic chemicals from fracking in their water and air. Yet public officials making decisions about fracking still, despite mounting evidence, consider their stories anecdotal.

Here are more facts to choose from:

Fracking takes massive quantities of fresh water permanently out of our finite fresh water supply, contaminating it forever.

Fracking fluid contains highly toxic chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, developmental toxicants; chemicals that harm the brain and nervous system.

Approximately 30% of fracking fluid injected into wells comes back up as wastewater. Most of the wastewater is blasted back into the earth for disposal, which is causing earthquakes. The remaining wastewater rests in the shale in casings that, as stated in the gas industry’s own documents, will ultimately deteriorate, making highly likely the contamination of pristine aquifers.

The wastewater also carries with it added toxins that have been quietly resting in the shale for 370 million years. These include arsenic, lead, uranium and radium 226. We are talking about radioactive waste.

Dangerous levels of methane leak from the fracking process, from well sites, storage tanks and countless pipelines. We have just passed the hottest year on record on this planet. We know that methane is horrific in its contribution to global warming.

Opening up Maryland to fracking is opening up Pandora’s Box. All the safety regulations in the world cannot protect the water and the air that will always be in jeopardy in the production and distribution of fracked gas. It is inevitable that underground cement casings will leak. That contractors will illegally dump wastewater into streams. That blow outs will happen at well sites. That trucks carrying lethal fracking fluid and wastewater will get into accidents on roads not meant for such extreme industrial traffic. These are facts. Does it happen every time? Of course, not. Does it happen? Absolutely!

Knowing that Western Maryland will be the first place to be fracked in our state, who will our government listen to? Will they listen to concerned citizens and the tourism industry that relies on clean water and air and untouched beauty to bring people to this treasured part of our state? Or will our government choose to gamble? Because that is what it is. Gambling. Gambling with lives, finite fresh water and pristine land. Fracking is safe until it isn’t. And once water is contaminated, there is little anyone can do.

Don’t gamble. With all due respect I have to say you will live to regret it. You will come to a place in your heart where you will realize you chose the wrong facts to back your decisions. The facts are already out there that fracking cannot be done safely. Please take the road that honors our children and future generations. Support green ways to fuel our state and boost our economy. It is the only road to take into the future. It is the only road that gives us a chance to have a future. Please ban fracking in Maryland.

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Fukushima and the Role of Catastrophe in Human Evolution

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant  Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant
Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sometimes there are impending disasters that are so extreme, I have to tune them out for fear that they will have too great an impact on my capacity to function in daily life.  Such had been the case with the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan.  Since the initial accident in March of 2011, there has been little in media covering the ongoing leakage of radioactive waste into the air and Pacific Ocean; little on how a yet-to-be-quelled damaged reactor remains a serious threat to us all.  It was easy enough to tune it out.  Until my daughter Claire decided she loved to eat dried seaweed.

In my Internet meanderings, I had come across an article on Japanese seaweed showing high levels of radiation.  I remember quietly mourning the loss of sushi, knowing I was now much less likely to eat it, not knowing where the seaweed – or the fish for that matter – came from.  Still, I do eat sushi on rare occasion, quietly pushing away thoughts of radiation, telling myself that a little radiation here or there is probably tolerable.

But not when it comes to Claire.  So I looked at the packet of dried seaweed she loves and saw that it was from Korea.  I investigated further and learned that Korea was on the back end of the nuclear meltdown, and Korean seaweed and fish were showing no sign of radiation.  I was relieved, knowing Claire was in the clear.  Time to tune Fukushima out again and move on.

Except that I couldn’t.  I was already knee-deep.  I had learned that radioactive waste from Fukushima has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean for the past 2.5 years and is heading toward the West Coast.  It was deeply disturbing news to bear, yet almost paled in comparison to what is currently happening with Fukushima Diiachi Unit 4, the nuclear reactor that still has the potential to cause the most powerful, widespread nuclear accident in human history.

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Calling All “Moms-In-Chief”: The Mothers Project and the Fight to End Fracking

I wasn’t able to listen to the First Lady’s speech the night she delivered it at the Democratic National Convention.  My 8-year-old daughter Claire is a night owl who loves to be read to sleep, so we lay in bed together reading Katie Kazoo Switcheroo as Michelle Obama spoke from her heart about the man she married and the country she so loves.

The next day I watched the speech on YouTube.  Toward the end, Michelle spoke about who she was first and foremost amidst the many roles in her life.  It was the only noticeable moment where tears filled her eyes.

“And I say all of this tonight not just as First Lady and not just as a wife. You see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still ‘mom-in-chief.’ My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world.”

As I listened to her, my eyes filled with tears, knowing that I, too, am first and foremost a mom-in-chief to a daughter I love more than words could ever convey.  I was moved to tears by that extraordinary love and a future my daughter and all children will be inheriting – a future that I’m not feeling very good about.

Granted the future has always and will always carry with it burdens and responsibilities that the next generation must take on when they have grown.  But when it comes to poisoning water and air, the adults in this world right now have a responsibility to stop that poisoning.  And right now fracking is at the top of the culprit list.

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Josh Fox Explains How Fracking is Consuming Our America

At the Frack Attack rally, I caught Josh Fox talking on the sidelines.  I am always in awe of his capacity to communicate.  He is articulate, accessible, compelling, funny, genuine and spot on.  The anti-fracking movement is so fortunate to have him as an international spokesperson, though his film Gasland is clearly one of the main reasons the movement exists.

In this clip, he explains how our country is literally getting eaten up by our addiction to fossil fuels.  I’ve known this for a while now, but as he was explaining it, it hit me differently, perhaps because I was at the rally in the front of the Capitol with people from all over this country that have been personally affected by fracking in horrendous ways.  Whatever the reason, I could literally see our country getting eaten up, and it fueled my fire to continue fighting to extinguish the madness.

Clean energy is our only chance for a viable future.  Our only chance.

Is Cheap Natural Gas Worth Poisoning Children?

Is cheap natural gas worth poisoning children?  It’s a question we all need to answer truthfully.  Especially when it comes from the mouths of children themselves.

I met Devon Haas at the Stop the Frack Attack rally in Washington, DC.  She is a beautiful eight-year-old-girl who was out in the blazing heat with her sign, fully present to do her part to stop the insanity of fracking.  She lives in Pennsylvania, where fracking is taking over at lightening speed.   Accidents and spills abound, contaminating water and air.  The gas industry will not own the contamination they are causing, but they do own the governor and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Devon makes clear the obligation we have as a society to stop the destruction of the planet and get serious about renewable energy.  How can we do otherwise? How can we not do our part to make sure the water she drinks and the air she breathes are safe?  We are the caretakers of their future, and the future is now.

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Devon is currently involved in Kids of the Gulf, a documentary film in progress that features two kids – Devon and Devin – who are determined to have a positive impact in the Gulf coast region in the aftermath of the BP oil spill by telling the stories of the children affected by the spill.  She is also the founder of Kids Army Worldwide
, which connects tens of thousands of kids around the world together for environmental and social justice issues that matter most to kids today.

Tending to Things Small and Large

Sam in his habitat.

The day after Hurricane Irene, my husband, daughter and I spent a few days vacationing at the beach.  While there, our daughter Claire campaigned hard to bring home a new member of the family – a hermit crab.  Apprehensive at first, my husband and I concluded it would be an easy enough pet to take of, so we said yes.  Armed with bags of sand from the beach, a 2.5-gallon tank, various shells, a sponge, and a plastic palm tree, we headed home, already fond of the little hermit crab – now affectionately called Sam.

Once home, I looked more extensively at information on how to care for hermit crabs, as the pamphlet that came with Sam seemed inadequate.  It turns out that, though “hermit” is in their name, they are anything but.  Hermit crabs love to hang out with other hermit crabs, ideally in a pack of six to nine, though in their natural habitat they’ll hang out with a hundred of their kin.  I wish they had told us about this at the Sea Shell Shop.

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What the Frack?

Up until a few months ago, I had never heard of fracking. If you had asked me what it is, I would have guessed it’s a substitute for a word that one should not use in the presence of children. As it turns out, that is not what it is, but it still has everything to do with something that should never be used in the presence of children.

Hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, is an extraction process for natural gas that is currently being conducted in 27 states in the country. Josh Fox, director of the award-winning documentary Gasland, is convinced that fracking is one of the country’s biggest environmental and public health challenges in history. After learning about it myself, I could not agree more.   Continue reading