While most of the news we’ve heard about fracking in recent years has been horrible, the tides may finally be turning. It seems that communities, politicians and even juries are now speaking out against the dangerous practice. Here are four fracking updates from the past month that can provide environmentalists with a sense of optimism:
1. Cities Are Moving to Preemptively Ban Fracking
Despite the gas industry eyeing California as a place for drilling, the state’s first municipality has decided to preemptively ban fracking. By a unanimous vote, the Beverly Hills city council agreed that fracking was dangerous to the environment and its residents and that it should not be permitted within city limits.
Some have criticized the fact that an affluent city is simply pushing fracking off to poorer areas instead. However, councilmember John Mirsch insists that their hope is to lead the way and inspire others to get rid of fracking. “This is not a ‘not in my backyard issue’ – it shouldn’t be in anyone’s backyard,” he said.
Leaders from other nearby cities attended the council meetings in the hopes of bringing the same information to their own respective governing bodies. Among these cities is Los Angeles, which is currently working on a similar proposal to ban fracking in the nation’s second largest city.
2. Ohio Is Finally Listening to the Research on Fracking-Caused Earthquakes
After a series of minor earthquakes shook Ohio 11 times in the past couple of months, state researchers looked into finding the source of the earth’s unrest. In a surprisingly unprecedented move, Ohio state officials declared a direct causation between fracking and the quakes. “Geologists believe the sand and water injected into the well during the hydraulic fracturing process may have increased pressure on an unknown micro-fault in the area,” announced an official press release.
Although the geologists are not able to say with 100% certainty that fracking is causing the shakes, they feel quite confident in the link. Confident enough, in fact, that Ohio is taking preliminary measures to prevent subsequent quakes. Not only will new fracking wells not be forbidden in the area that has experienced seismographic activity, but the existing drilling in the area has also been suspended.
3. Congress Is Starting to Call Out the EPA’s Lack of Action
Seeing that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been notoriously lax in enforcing regulations, eight members of Congress are calling on the agency to both “investigate and address” the quality of water in fracking communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming. Headed by Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania Matt Cartwright, the members of Congress claim that “a lack of enforcement [has] forced communities living in and near to heavily drilled areas to pay the price for the boom.”
Although the EPA originally found that fracking was ruining local drinking water supplies, it never officially concluded its investigations, thereby failing to improve standards for the fracking industry. The politicians’ goal is to prevent the EPA from idly standing by and intentionally not holding gas companies accountable for their destruction.
4. Victims of Fracking Win Big in Court
This past week marked the major legal victory in favor of a family being harmed by nearby fracking activity. A jury awarded the Parr family of Decatur, Texas about $3 million for their suffering due to irresponsible activities by Aruba Petroleum.
Shortly after wells went up close to the Parr’s home, the entire family began experiencing strange health problems, including nausea, rashes, nosebleeds, sight and memory impairment. Lisa Parr’s doctor identified 20 toxic, petroleum-based chemicals in her body. Furthermore, the Parrs’s pets and livestock started to mysteriously die, and their neighbors got sick, as well.
While there have been similar cases settled outside of court, this is the first time a jury has declared fracking dangerous to people’s health, which will hopefully set a precedent. Meanwhile, Aruba Petroleum maintains that it caused no harm to the Parr family and that the company will appeal the verdict.