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Intro: "Vermont is about to become the first U.S. state to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas."

Hydraulic fracturing operation. (photo: AP)
Hydraulic fracturing operation. (photo: AP)



Vermont Will Be First State to Ban Fracking

By Environment News Service

10 May 12

 

ermont is about to become the first U.S. state to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas. The Vermont House of Representatives voted 103-36 Friday to approve a conference committee report calling for the ban. The report reconciles differences with a bill banning the practice passed by the state Senate last week.

The measure now goes to the desk of Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, who is expected to sign it into law.

"We don't want to be shooting chemicals into our groundwater in pursuit of gas that does not exist," Governor Shumlin said Friday after the House vote.

In April, while unveiling a new geologic map of Vermont, Shumlin again expressed his opposition to fracking in Vermont.


Fracking operation in North Dakota (Photo by Robert Johnson)

No gas fracking is now taking place in Vermont.Geologists have said Vermont lacks the abundant natural gas underlying New York and Pennsylvania. But the same shale formation that has supported commercial fracking operations in Quebec extends south along Lake Champlain in Vermont.

Fracking extracts natural gas by injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into shale rock formations to fracture the rock and release the gas. Giant holding ponds or tanks are needed to store the chemically contaminated waste water that comes back up the hole after wells have been fractured.

The technology has been in use for decades, but only recently has the industry developed the capacity to drill horizontally within the rock formations.

Horizontal fracking requires massive amounts of water and potentially toxic chemicals. But industry secrecy about the chemicals injected into the shale has made it difficult for scientists and government agencies to get the facts on health and environmental impacts of fracking.

The Obama administration Friday issued a proposed rule that would require oil and gas companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on federal public and Indian lands - but only after fracturing operations have been completed.

Vermont State Senator Ginny Lyons, who chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said that until it is clearer what chemicals are used in fracking and the exact consequences for Vermont's groundwater, the practice should be banned.

"There have been over 1,000 instances of ... water contamination at sites in close proximity to fracking wells between 2008 and 2012 in the United States, so the contamination is a concern," Lyons told the "Times Argus" newspaper in April.

The current fracking-enabled natural gas boom across the United States has poisoned drinking water, polluted air and sickened people living near gas wells.

"Fracking has caused enormous problems with underground water contamination and aboveground waste disposal ? entire streams have been destroyed," said author and climate change activist, Bill McKibben, who is a scholar in residence in environmental studies at Vermont's Middlebury College.

"A ban on this process makes sense, if for no other reason than it will keep the oil industry from pumping lobbying dollars into the state," said McKibben.

In Washington, DC, The American Petroleum Institute called the Vermont legislature's move "irresponsible."

Rolf Hanson, API's senior director of state government relations, said that the decision by the Vermont legislature to issue a statewide ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing is "shortsighted and uninformed."

"The decision by the Vermont legislature to pass a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing follows an irresponsible path that ignores three major needs: jobs, government revenue and energy security," said Hanson.

"An uninformed ban on a proven technology used for over 60 years is short-sighted and irresponsible, particularly when Vermont benefits year-round from natural gas safely produced in neighboring states and provinces," said Hanson.

"The Vermont Legislature deserves tremendous praise for having the courage to stand up to all of the lobbying, the full page ads and the legal threats of the oil and gas industry," said Paul Burns, executive director of the nonprofit Vermont Public Interest Research Group. "This is a shot that will be heard, if not around the world then at least around the country."

"Vermonters were able to see through the smokescreen put out by the gas industry," said VPIRG organizer Leah Marsters. "They understand the threat that fracking poses to public health, as well as our air, land and water."

According to a minority staff report released last year by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, more than 650 commonly used fracking products contain chemicals that are "known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants."

 

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+23 # neohip 2012-05-10 07:18
The more I hear about this state and its actions the more appealing it becomes. Obviously an intelligent population lives there. I am seriously thinking of relocating. Thanks Vermont! May you be the leader in future legislation across this country to bring this horrendous practice to an end.
 
 
+16 # ER444 2012-05-10 11:06
Hey, it's home of America's best Senator, Bernie Sanders!!!!
 
 
0 # thomachuck 2012-07-02 14:26
You are right. A perfect complement to the state's decision on single payer health insurance. Vermont is pretty enlightened; not only do you get that impression from listening to their governor but also Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has the courage of his own convictions on most subjects despite the inane ideology coming from the right.
 
 
+21 # pernsey 2012-05-10 07:33
Vermont is awesome!! I used to live in South Hero, its a really beautiful place! Im so glad they are banning fracking there.
 
 
+17 # ltsnh1941@gmail.com 2012-05-10 07:38
Not only are they ahead of the curve on this matter, but they also are ahead of the curve with respect to health care. I just wish some of that spirit would rub off on my legislators in NH.
 
 
+14 # LeeBlack 2012-05-10 08:46
Hopefully more states will follow their lead.
 
 
+14 # chrisconnolly 2012-05-10 09:03
I have never understood why the argument that an activity creates jobs could ever be presented or accepted as more important than clean drinking water. That Dick Chenney could secretly exempt this industry from clean water standards indicates his knowledge that it would not be able to comply with clean water standards in the first place. We must get our priorities straight before it is too late for all of us. If it isn't already.
 
 
+4 # has20birds 2012-05-10 09:08
Check out this "related" story

http://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/437/in_their_backyard?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=May+2012+newsletter&utm_content=May+2012+newsletter+CID_4541817e1273affdb7bdec0f35adefdf&utm_source=Email+marketing+software&utm_term=In+Their+Backyard+Robert+D+Bullard+On+The+Politics+Of+Where+We+Put+Our+Trash

and this

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/2010/gallery/global-water-volume.html

After seeing that graphic, ask yourself, "How much water can we afford to frack?"
 
 
0 # thomachuck 2012-07-02 14:32
Also (if you have not already) google Abram Lustgarten and Wyoming and fracking or look at this author's work on the ProPublica website. You will read all the tragic outcome you care to about how fracking was badly handled by the Wyoming environmental authorities back 30-40 years ago. A real shame and perfect demonstration of things gone horribly wrong when big oil and big bucks drives government. Wyoming has another thing in common with Vermont: it is fairly sparsely populated, so health problems and water contamination would take a while to become evident.
 
 
+12 # Listner 2012-05-10 09:29
These are the decisions we will all point to in the future and say this was a landmark issue solved by voters with conscience. Interesting statement by the guy the republicans marched out to dispute the decision.He said it would kill jobs. HA
If the job you're doing is harming the environment the way fracking does, then you're moving the country backward and you should be stopped.
 
 
+13 # Pinetree05 2012-05-10 10:13
Yay Vermont on banning fracking, and like Montana, on passing the Move To Amend the Constitution referendum to REVERSE the Supremes' Citizens United claim that corporations are people. Only living, breathing individuals are people, and money is not free speech! Fight in every state to amend the constitution!
 
 
+11 # genierae 2012-05-10 10:47
In Ohio the fracking boom is just beginning, despite loud protests from many of us. The majority who are against this destructive practice are always overruled by the minority who profit from it. The majority needs to get much more organized and much louder if we want to save this planet.
 
 
+6 # lilpat126 2012-05-10 18:31
Personally I'd rather go back to the horse and buggy than pollute my drinking water. What good is fuel if you are dying from lack of water. We have many other options in a choice of a fuel source, but none to replace water. You can't buy what you don't have. So what good is your money when you are dying from dehydration?
 
 
+6 # RMDC 2012-05-11 02:53
Good for Vermont. Fracking is just bad technology and should be banned everywhere. Now Exxon is the biggest Fracking corp in the world and Exxon is also the most powerful influence on governments. Exxon was mainly behind the effort to create doubts about climate science and it is beginning its pro-Fracking campaign. We will soon be hearing politicians say that all the anti-Fracking science is wrong and that Fracking is good for the earth.

Ban Fracking.
 

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