In 2009, when few outside of the fossil fuel industry had heard the term “fracking,” we at Food & Water Watch began to receive many questions from our supporters about its impact on water resources. Over the next two years, we took a close look at this burgeoning oil and gas drilling technique that was suddenly reshaping rural landscapes, and reshaping America’s energy landscape as well. What we found was startling: fracking posed an immense threat to drinking water, and had already caused serious contamination events and subsequent human health impacts in numerous states across the country. So, in 2011, we did the prudent thing: we called for a ban on fracking everywhere, becoming the first national organization in America to take this bold, uncompromised stand.
By 2015, scores of studies and reports had been published confirming all kinds of hazards and threats associated with fracking: drinking water contamination with cancer-causing chemicals like benzene; air pollution that poses respiratory health risks, especially to children with asthma; accidents and explosions; toxic waste accumulation; and even increased crime rates in areas where fracking was booming. Soon, studies were connecting low-birthweight babies with proximity to fracking sites. But perhaps most alarming was the mounting evidence of fracking’s impact on our climate. Natural gas, touted as a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future, was actually helping to tip the scales of climate stability past the point of no return. Fracked gas was found to be a climate killer.
Now, as a 10-year fracking boom has ebbed and flowed, as countless families and communities have borne the costs of this industry through disruption, displacement, sickness and even death, and as our planet hangs on the precipice of climate catastrophe, fossil fuel corporations and their elected enablers are seeking to turn up the pace of new fracking projects once again.
Our latest research shows that their endgame is a world locked into plastics, pollution and climate chaos. In addition to the buildout of a growing pipeline network, we’ve discovered that more than 700 new facilities have been built or proposed to capitalize off of a glut of cheap fracked gas.
From petrochemical facilities to gas-fired power plants and liquefied natural gas export terminals, these new projects would commit America to another generation of dependence on fossil fuels. These new projects would bring dangerous air pollutants associated with heightened cancer risks and respiratory illnesses, and would disproportionately affect lower-income communities and communities of color where they are most commonly located.
These projects aren’t just associated with health and safety risks: if even a fraction of them come to fruition, they will condemn the planet to a future of climate chaos.
While the influence of the oil and gas industry is immense, and the work ahead will be hard, we can stop this onslaught from the fossil fuel industry. The grassroots movement to reject dirty energy has banned fracking in New York and Maryland and stopped or delayed dozens of fossil fuel infrastructure projects that would have turned frontline communities into sacrifice zones, polluting air, water and the climate.
By 2016, polling showed that more than half of Americans disapproved of fracking. And, as we head into the 2020 presidential elections, climate change is emerging as a top issue among Democratic voters. There is hope for a better world without fracking, and that starts with strong policies that address our systemic dependence on the fossil fuels that are smothering our planet in plastic and pollution.
Every day, as people power multiplies, we are working together to stop new fossil fuel development and to promote a rapid transition to a clean, just and equitable renewable energy future. It’s time to fight like we live here.