United Kingdom: I’m 73 and a grandmother. Fracking has turned me into an activist

Until last year I’d never been in a protest. Now I’m due in court for trying to stop this destructive industry ruining our landscape
Gillian Kelly protesting in Fylde.

Iam a 73-year-old grandmother. On a sunny day in the middle of July I found myself sitting in the central reservation of the A583 outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool, one arm locked into a steel tube within a brightly coloured wooden box and surrounded by police. I was not alone. Locked into a neighbouring box was my partner, Paul, and my granddaughter, Megan. A few feet away my son, Sebastian, was also locked on, along with two other female friends.

The next morning in the Guardian there was a large photograph of me with a caption describing me as an activist. I almost laughed out loud. I thought I must be the unlikeliest person ever to be described as an activist. Unlikely because of my age and because I am definitely not given to defiance; I do feel deeply about inhumanity, greed, the wrecking of the planet, but thus far I had confined myself to petition-signing, infrequent letter-writing and furious, but powerless, indignation in the company of like-minded friends.

On Monday, I’ll be in court, charged with obstructing the highway. What changed?

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‘Like thunder in the ground’: Texans fear link between quakes and fracking waste

Wastewater injection, a byproduct of fracking, is the likely culprit behind a surge of earthquakes in northern Texas – and residents want accountability

Road signs in Texas illustrate both sides of the fracking debate. The industry creates jobs but environmentalists and others have voiced concerns.
 Road signs in Texas illustrate both sides of the fracking debate. The industry creates jobs but environmentalists and others have voiced concerns. Photograph: Alamy

An earthquake, Cathy Wallace says, feels like “a rumble – it’s like thunder in the ground coming towards your house like a train and you can hear it and feel it coming”.

Wallace is not based in California, or in any of the US’s well-known seismic hot-spots. She lives in north Texas, historically one of the country’s least earthquake-prone regions – until the drillers came.

Rampant energy industry activity is nothing new in Texas, but these days it does not only signify oil pumpjacks nodding lugubriously in remote fields. In little over a decade, since fracking began in earnest in the Barnett Shale, drilling sites have become part of the urban landscape in the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, sometimes placed a matter of metres from houses, businesses, churches, schools, parks and the 11th-busiest passenger airport in the world.

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What is fracking?

HideFracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a way of extracting natural gas from shale rock formations that are often deep underground. It involves pumping water, chemicals and usually sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale – hence the name – and release the gas trapped within to be collected back at the surface.

The technology has transformed the US energy landscape in the last decade, owing to the combination of high-volume fracking – 1.5m gallons of water per well, on average – and the relatively modern ability to drill horizontally into shale after a vertical well has been drilled.

On Environment and Energy, Trump Often Picks His Own Facts

New York Times, Aug. 3, 2017

President Trump held a rally Thursday night with some of his favorite people: West Virginians. As he often does, he praised coal and coal miners, and claimed credit for a turnaround in the industry.

“We are putting our coal miners back to work,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve ended the war on beautiful, clean coal. We’ve stopped the E.P.A. intrusion.”

But many of the things Mr. Trump says about coal, climate change and the environment bear a strained relationship with the truth. He often cherry-picks facts that prove to be exaggerations when the broader context is considered. He has made inaccurate assertions many times; he is more likely to repeat than to retract.

Here are five of Mr. Trump’s most prominent climate and environmental claims as president:

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What is fracking and should we be afraid of it?

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing which is a way of getting fossil fuels out of the ground. However, unlike a traditional oil well the oil and gas deposits are found in small bubbles deep below the earth in rock formations. In order to access all these deposits in one go using a drilling derrick, the fracking operation will normally drill down first and then sideways through the strata.

Frack fluid

Next, a highly pressurised liquid known as frack fluid’ is forced down the pipe that forces the rock around the bore to fracture. The oil or natural gas then escapes into the bore where it can be pumped back to the surface.

So, why should we be concerned about it?

It is the environment impact of fracking that causes concern. The biggest concern is with the fracking fluid itself, given that this contains a mixture of water, chemicals, such as solvents, biocides and corrosion inhibitors as well as solid particles – typically sand. Many of us are worried about this fluid seeping into the groundwater and contaminating the local water supply. Moreover, the process can use up to 8 million litres of fresh water, which is the equivalent daily consumption of a mid-sized small town.

Facts:

  • About 87% of the fracking done worldwide in 2011 was in North America e.g the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the Marcellus Shale that spreads through New York and Pennsylvania,
  • Environmentalists and advocates against fracking say that local drinking water becomes contaminated either because there is natural gas in it or due to the frack fluid
  • In the US companies are not required by law to state what is the composition of the frack fluids they use as it could put their business models at risk

Some videos to view:

What exactly is fracking, and should we be scared of it?

RT UK: Fracking is the process of drilling into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the oil or gas inside. Water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the oil or gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Fracking Hell: The Untold Story

An original investigative report by Earth Focus and UK’s Ecologist Film Unit looks at the risks of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. From toxic chemicals in drinking water to unregulated interstate dumping of potentially radioactive waste that experts fear can contaminate water supplies in major population centers including New York City, are the health consequences worth the economic gains?

Marcellus Shale contains enough natural gas to supply all US gas needs for 14 years. But as gas drilling takes place, using a process called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” toxic chemicals and methane gas seep into drinking water. Now experts fear that unacceptable levels of radioactive Radium 226 in gas development waste.

Fracking chemicals are linked to bone, liver and breast cancers, gastrointestinal, circulatory, respiratory, developmental as well as brain and nervous system disorders. Such chemicals are present in frack waste and may find their way into drinking water and air.

Waste from Pennsylvania gas wells — waste that may also contain unacceptable levels of radium — is routinely dumped across state lines into landfills in New York, Ohio and West Virginia. New York does not require testing waste for radioactivity prior to dumping or treatment. So drill cuttings from Pennsylvania have been dumped in New York’s Chemung and other counties and liquid waste is shipped to treatment plants in Auburn and Watertown New York. How radioactive is this waste? Experts are calling are for testing to find out. New York State may have been the first state in the nation to put a temporary hold on fracking pending a safety review, but it allows other states to dump toxic frack waste within its boundaries.

With a gas production boom underway in the Marcellus Shale and plans for some 400,000 wells in the coming decades, the cumulative impact of dumping potential lethal waste without adequate oversight is a catastrophe waiting to happen. And now U.S. companies are exporting fracking to Europe.

Fracking: The real cost of shale in Texas | Guardian Investigations

In north Texas, the pumping heart of the oil and gas industry, an energy company are drilling five wells for fracking behind Veronica Kronvall’s home.