“Greenwashing” Called Out: No Confusion Should Arise About Views of Local Communities As a Result of Shale Gas Industry’s Coopting of EDF
A total of 67 leading grassroots organizations focused on citizen and environmental issues released a joint letter to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) disapproving of the group’s willingness to be coopted by industry interests on the issue of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) for shale gas.
Available online at http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/frackingEDF, the letter addressed to EDF President Fred Krupp states: “Those of us concerned with charting a rational and sustainable energy policy for the United States were disheartened to see the Environmental Defense Fund lend its name and support to an entity called the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD). The very use of the word sustainable in the name is misleading, because there is nothing sustainable about shale oil or shale gas. These are fossil fuels, and their extraction and consumption will inevitably degrade our environment and contribute to climate change. Hydraulic fracturing, the method used to extract them, will permanently remove huge quantities of water from the hydrological cycle, pollute the air, contaminate drinking water, and release high levels of methane into the atmosphere. It should be eminently clear to everyone that an economy based on fossil fuels is unsustainable.”
Gail Pressberg, senior program director, Civil Society Institute, said: “Our message today is very simple: The Environmental Defense Fund does not speak for local communities, which are fully capable of speaking for themselves when it comes to fracking and its deleterious impacts. While EDF is free to partner with the gas industry, we feel it is important that the press and the public clearly understand that neither EDF nor CSSD represents the environmental and public health communities on the subject of shale oil and gas extraction.”
Bruce Ferguson, co-founder, Catskills Citizens for Clean Energy, said: “The participation by the Environmental Defense Fund in the misleadingly named Center for Sustainable Shale Development is nothing less than a betrayal of the millions of Americans who are working to combat climate change, and the hundreds of grassroots groups that have organized all across the county to protect their communities from destructive hydrofracking. The extraction of gas and oil from shale formations is not, and cannot be, sustainable. The process contaminates our air, our soil and our water, and releases huge quantities of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The push to expand shale extraction is occurring at a time when it is clear that the country, and the world, need to be moving quickly to a reliance on renewable energy supplies.”
Vivian Stockman, project coordinator, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said: “Here in West Virginia, we've seen entire communities suffer rare and deadly diseases as a result of the underground injection of coal-prep plant waste. We know all too well the extreme social costs of letting an industry have its way. We know that extractive industries, without intense supervision, will take all they can, without regard to the land, the air, the water or the people. Voluntary guidelines just don't cut it.”
The full text of the groups’ letter to EDF is available online at http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/FrackingEDF.
The joint letter goes on to state: “CSSD bills itself as a collaborative effort between ‘diverse interests with a common goal,’ but our goals as a nation are not, and cannot, be the same as those of Chevron, CONSOL Energy, EQT Corporation, and Shell, all partners in CSSD. These corporations are interested in extracting as much shale gas and oil as possible, and at a low cost. We are interested in minimizing the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels and in facilitating a rapid transition to the real sustainable energy sources—the sun, the wind, and hydropower.
As you know, Jacobson et al. recently published a study showing that New York State could derive all its energy from renewable sources by the year 2030 using existing technologies. Clearly this model, which can be replicated in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country, calls into question the whole notion of expanding shale oil and gas extraction.
That said, we do recognize the need to limit the damage and destruction caused by ongoing extraction operations, but we do not believe that voluntary standards, approved by the industry and ‘greenwashed’ by an environmental organization are the way to go about it. There is a better way to protect the public—it’s called regulation. The oil and gas industry is exempt from scores of state and federal laws and regulations, including key provisions of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Any genuine effort to limit the damage caused by oil and gas extraction begins by closing these legal and regulatory loopholes, but as far as we can tell, CSSD does not advocate this important, commonsense measure. Responsible oil and gas corporations should welcome strict regulations and enforcement with damage-proportional fines, because they will apply to the bad actors as well as good corporate citizens.
It is disappointing that the voluntary performance standards set by CSSD often fall far short of what are widely acknowledged to be best management practices. For example, Performance Standard No. 4 calls for open, double-lined pits to store flowback fluid, although closed-loop drilling systems and tank storage do a much better job of minimizing air, soil and water contamination and protecting wildlife—which, not incidentally, also enters the human food chain.
From a public health perspective, there are other glaring faults with the CSSD performance standards. Performance Standard No. 7 permits operators to limit disclosure of the chemicals they inject underground by citing trade secret protection. We simply do not believe commercial interests can be allowed to trump public health concerns regarding underground injection.
The lax nature of these standards is no doubt due in part to the fact that the partners in CSSD apparently failed to consult with the local communities that are impacted by shale extraction operations. It is doubtful that the tens of millions of Americans who live ‘on the shale’ would approve of open waste pits or the underground injection of undisclosed toxic chemicals in the vicinity of their water wells.”
Signers of the joint letter include: the Civil Society Institute; Earthworks, Jennifer Krill, Executive Director; Friends of the Earth (US); Greenpeace, Phil Radford, Executive Director; documentary film director Josh Fox; Dominic Frongillo, Councilmember and Deputy Town Supervisor, Town of Caroline, New York; A.R. Ingraffea, Ph.D., P.E., Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Cornell University; Robert W. Howarth, Ph.D, David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Founding Editor, Biogeochemistry, Cornell University; Robert Kennedy, Jr.; and the actors Mark Ruffalo and Debra Winger.
The balance of the letter signers are (in alphabetical order): Advocates for Morris (NY), Maureen Dill; Appalachian Law Center (Whitesburg, KY), Stephen A. Saunders; Athens County (OH) Fracking Action Network, Heather Cantino; Bashakill Area Association; Berks Gas Truth (Kutztown, PA),Karen Feridun, Founder; Beyond Nuclear (Takoma Park, MD), Kevin Kamps; Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy (Fremont Center, NY), Bruce Ferguson; Coalition for a Frack-Free Tennessee, Eric Lewis; Concerned Citizens of Otsego, New York, Stuart Anderson; Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace, Leslie Lytle, Executive Director; Citizen’s Action Coalition (Indiana) Kerwin Olson, Executive Director; Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Mike Tidwell, Executive Director; Coal River Mountain Watch, Vernon Halton, Executive Director; Christians for the Mountains, Allen Johnson; Citizens’ Greener Evanston (IL); Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes; Concerned Citizens of Darby (New York), Gay Garrison, Co-Chair; Citizens for a Healthy Community (Paonia, CO); Delaware Riverkeeper Network,?Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper; Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, B. Arrindell, Director; The Edge, Suzanne Moynahan; Fleased (Slaterville Springs, NY), Ellen Z. Harrison, Executive Director; Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County (PA); Alfonso Rodriguez, M.D.; Healing Ourselves and Mother Earth, Jennifer Olaranna Viereck, Executive Director; Interfaith Care Network, Sally Wingate; Institute for Policy Studies Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Janet Redman; Labor Network for Sustainability, Joe Uehlein; Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, Julie Edgar, Organizer; Los Alamos Study Group (Albuquerque, NM); Luzerne County Citizens for Clean Air, Nancy Dolan; Missourians for Safe Energy, Mark Haim, Chair; Mountain Justice (West Virginia); New York 4 Whales; North Carolina WARN, Jim Warren, Executive Director; Northern Plains Resource Council, Walter Archer, Chair; Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Janet Keating, Executive Director; Otsego 2000, Ellen Pope, Executive Director; Otsego Neighbors, Julie Huntsman, DVM, Councilwoman, Town of Otsego; Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, Jenny Lisak, Co-Director; Pepacton Institute LLC, Jannette M. Barth Ph.D.; Public Citizen's Energy Program, Allison Fisher; Responsible Drilling Alliance, Williamsport, PA; Renewable Energy Long Island, Gordian Raacke, Executive Director; Sanford-Oquaga Area Concerned Citizens (S-OACC); Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED), Karen London, Esq., Co-Founder; Sierra Club Long Island Group, Ann Aurelio; Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), Knoxville, Tennessee; Shaleshock Alliance, Lisa Wright; San Juan Citizens Alliance (Durango, CO), Dan Randolph; Sustainable Tompkins, Tom Shelley, Chair; Tour de frack (Evans City, PA), Jason Bell; United for Action, David Braun; Westchester for Change, Susan Van Dolsen, Co-Organizer; WESPAC Foundation,Nada Khader, Executive Director; and Women's Energy Matters, Barbara George, President.