Greens push for an end to fracking

07 Oct 2020 | 11:57

    It has taken slightly more than a decade for hydraulic fracturing to entrench itself in PA, forming a beltway of 10,000 wells that arc from the southwest to the northeast. Colloquially referred to as fracking, the process involves drilling and pumping high pressure chemical-laden water and sand deep into underground shale deposits to release and capture gas and oil. Over the years, it has become evident that economic prosperity has fallen short of original promises, while alarming reports of public health decline, potent greenhouse gas leaks, and environmental devastation have bubbled to the surface.

    Public opinion about fracking among Pennsylvania voters is completely split down the middle. Yet when it comes to government representation, half of the Pennsylvanian electorate has virtually no one to turn to. The Green Party of PA (GPPA, www.gpofpa.org) believes our citizens deserve politicians committed to guarding public and environmental health, unencumbered by lies that fracking is safe and economic devastation is the only alternative.

    This industry that poisons Pennsylvania’s waters and sickens its people has near total condonation among state government leaders. Such a vast majority of Republican and Democratic politicians support fracking that finding opposition is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, all eighteen of the state’s current U.S. representatives, and both of its senators support the continued use of fracking nationally with the amount of regulation needed the only variation in opinion.

    Many politicians and fossil fuel industry representatives have claimed that fracking is “clean and safe,” but the findings in science and health reports beg to differ. Because the PA Departments of Health and Environmental Protection have ignored the crisis brought on by fracking pollution, government led studies on its health and environmental effects are scarce. Politicians have used this to their advantage over the years, telling the public they have nothing to fear because the Departments of Health and Environmental Protection have not found links between fracking and certain health issues or environmental pollution. This, however, is because they have not been looking. Fortunately, this gap has been partially filled by science-based nonprofits, independent newsrooms, and concerned public citizens. What we have learned from their studies, investigative reporting, and firsthand testimony is not encouraging.

    There are communities in Pennsylvania where the residents have to drive out of town weekly to buy dozens of gallons of water to drink and bathe safely. This is because their well water was contaminated by cancer-causing toxic chemicals leaching from nearby fracking wells. There are numerous reports of farm animals, pets, and wildlife sickening or dying from contaminated drinking water and radioactive chemical waste released into waterways. In southwestern Pennsylvania, an alarming jump in the rate of rare cancers has been recorded since 2008, when fracking started proliferating in the region. Only now, is the PA Department of Health planning a study that examines whether there is a correlation between the two.

    In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, which Democrats now fashionably claim to be concerned with, a recent scientific study found Pennsylvania emits about one million tons of methane annually due to fracking. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, contributing to a quarter of all global warming. It is capable of about eighty times the warming caused by carbon dioxide.

    Out of a combined 253 politicians in the Pennsylvnia General Assembly, just a handful of Democrats favor a statewide ban. Even DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, charged specifically with protecting the health of Pennsylvania’s ecosystems, will not publicly condemn the fracking industry. Some might have hoped June’s Grand Jury Report exposing the statewide scope of pollution and absent regulatory effort would be bombshell enough to spur state lawmakers into action, but alas money seems to have spoken louder than the cries of the sick.

    The Green Party of Pennsylvania has officially opposed the practice of fracking since 2008, when it was evident that the use of volatile chemicals could harm local communities and waterways. Unfortunately, the Greens were right. In the years since, we have heard the voices of the sick. We have seen the destruction done to our major waterways and delicate ecosystems. We know that the continuation of oil and gas drilling means more greenhouse gas emissions and the resignation of our planet’s climate stability. Thus far, our state’s government and business institutions have failed us, and they continue to lead us on a path to ruin. That is why the Green Party puts forth our candidates every election, so Pennsylvania voters have a choice.

    On Nov. 3, the GPPA will have candidates for PA Auditor General, PA Attorney General, PA Treasurer, State Representatives for Districts 23, 45 (write-in), 64, and 127 (write-in), U.S. Vice President, and President (both write-in). All Green Party candidates support a ban on the dangerous practice of fracking. The GPPA calls upon all citizens of the Commonwealth to become politically active, to raise awareness of the dangers of fracking, and to pressure elected officials to oppose fracking and provide relief to the communities and habitats that have been decimated. We strongly encourage those who are deeply concerned about public and environmental health to explore running for local office in opposition to fracking, or to help those who will run. The crisis in our Commonwealth requires the election of more environmental stewards.

    More information about 2020 GPPA candidates can be found at: https://www.greenslate2020.org/. The GPPA is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party’s Four Pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/gpofpa/, and Twitter, https://twitter.com/GreenPartyofPA.

    Editor’s note: Matt Nemeth is the North Hills Coordinator, Green Party of Allegheny County