Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wayne County First in Michigan to Support a Ban on Dangerous Gas Drilling Technique

September 22, 2011
Contact: Lynna Kaucheck, Food & Water Watch
Cell: (586) 556-8805

Detroit , Mich. – Today, the Wayne County Board of Commissioner became the first county in Michigan to pass a resolution supporting a ban on a controversial gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The Commission passed the resolution 12 to 1. Commissioners Diane Webb and Martha G. Scott offered up the resolution, which was co-sponsored by eight of the commissioners. Commissioner Laura Cox cast the only vote in opposition of the resolution. Also in attendance was a representative from Congressman Conyers office, who was there to show support for the resolution.

“Today, Wayne County sent a strong message indicating that a ban on fracking is necessary to protect public health and preserve Michigan ’s natural resources,” said Lynna Kaucheck of Food & Water Watch. “ Michigan sits in the middle of 20 percent of the world’s available fresh water. That means we have a distinct responsibility to protect this vital natural resource. The time to ban fracking in Michigan is now.”

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals deep underground to break up dense rock formations and release natural gas. Opponents of fracking cite the high potential for water and air pollution as a leading reason to ban the practice. Over 1,000 cases of water contamination have been reported near fracking sites around the United States .

“Wastewater from fracking contains chemicals that cause cancer, and various other diseases. I have worked too long and too hard to stay healthy for my retirement to be exposed to these types of hazards without my consent. I think this is a step in the right direction for citizens who care about the water they drink and the food they eat” said Wayne County resident Jim Egged, who encouraged Commissioner Webb to take up the resolution. .

Public opposition to fracking has escalated in recent months, with concerned residents and environmental and consumer advocacy groups campaigning against the practice. Recent reports show that oil and gas interests have leased nearly $200 million worth of Michigan-owned drilling rights in the Collingwood-Utica formation in the last year. The Collingwood-Utica formation is a deep shale deposit that rests under the northern portion of Michigan ’s lower peninsula.

“It’s time our state lawmakers truly put Pure Michigan and the states tourism and agriculture industries ahead of greedy oil and gas interests,” said Kaucheck. “We need to support the industries that make our state great, instead of selling of our natural resources to the highest bidder.”

In other parts of the Midwest, where fracking is increasingly common, residents have reported complications ranging from headaches and blackouts, noxious odors in the air and sudden blindness and hair loss to death among their livestock – concerns which led those living in Dish, Texas, a town located near 11 natural gas compression stations, to hire a private environmental consultant to sample the air there. The consultant found that it contained high levels of neurotoxins and carcinogens, including benzene.

A 2011 Cornell University study found that the process of fracking also releases methane, which according to the EPA, is 21 times more damaging of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Similarly, a study released in April by researchers at Duke University found methane levels in shallow drinking water wells near active gas drilling sites at a level 17 times higher than those near inactive ones.

“This resolution is a great first step and a bold statement from the Wayne County Commission,” said Kaucheck. “We hope that other municipalities and the state follow suit.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. House and Energy Commerce Committee determined that 14 oil companies had injected 780 million gallons of fracking chemicals and other substances into U.S. wells between 2005 and 2009. This included 10.2 million gallons of fluids containing known or suspected carcinogens.

The companies, however, are not required to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluid, which they claim should be protected as a “trade secret”. They are also exempt from seven major federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act.

Scientists at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange who tested fracking fluids found that 25 percent can cause cancer; 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system; and 40 to 50 percent can affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.

Earlier this year, Food & Water Watch released a report entitled The Case for a Ban on Fracking. The report reveals how the natural gas industry’s use of water-intensive, toxic, unregulated practices for natural gas extraction are compromising public health and polluting water resources across the country.

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