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If Fracking is Safe, Why Then Has One Major Company Refused...

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Two weeks ago, Nationwide Insurance became the first major company to exclude damage to homes from fracking. The decision applies to companies which frack as well as to homeowners who allow fracking below their property. It is unclear how this will affect those who refuse to lease but live surrounded by those who sign.  

There are several significant ramifications of this decision by Nationwide.

1) Should other companies follow suit (and they likely will), homeowners in or near fracking areas (remember horizontal drilling reaches out one to two miles from the original well site) might not be able to insure their homes.  
2) 2) If one cannot insure a home, then mortgages will be void.  
3) This is because lenders require homeowners to carry insurance. So, mortgages could be called back, that is to say, cancelled.  
4) If other insurers join in, no new mortgages could be written for the property.  
5) And no one is likely to buy an uninsurable home.
6) If a home cannot be sold, it's market value is zero, thus obliterating the value of the homeowner's investment and putting the homeowner seriously "under water."

Just One Example of What’s the Matter With Fracking

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Watch this short video telling the truth about about fracking and then recall the ad most often shown on television about the subject (in the ad they never even call it by either fracking or its technical name, horizontal hydraulic fracturing).

The ads present a perky blonde lecturing us about the supposedly safe gas exploration.  Like the antiseptic diagrams she misleads with, she propagandizes that it's all good. There are no safety concerns.  Nada, not even as the drilling process drills between one and two miles horizontally, injects a slurry of toxic chemicals and exceedingly high pressure. No problem, she pretends.

But we do have a problem. If this method of extraction of gas from shale, is used near aquifers, wells, lakes and streams, as it is and is proposed in a number of states, we put the sustainability of large swaths of our nation at risk.  

The Oil and Gas Drilling Revenue Trap

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Drilling the Bakken FormationAre communities really making money off of oil and gas drilling if they have to spend nearly all of the tax revenue building infrastructure to support oil and gas drilling?
The state should invest up to $5 billion in northwest North Dakota communities with the most oil activity, the president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council said Wednesday.

Ron Ness, while testifying to a group of legislators meeting in Williston, said communities need significant resources to do long-range planning, but the state's grant program for those areas is only helping them react. Ness called for a five-year plan with $800 million to $1 billion per year invested in schools, roads and infrastructure for communities in the core areas of the Bakken. [...]

The industry paid $1.3 billion in oil and gas production tax last year, and will pay even more this year, Ness said. Those dollars should be targeted at the counties with the greatest oil activity, he said.

It makes oil and gas drilling sound like a Ponzi, doesn't it? You'll make lots of money eventually, but only if you keep re-investing! As places like Virginia consider whether to allow oil and gas drilling, politicians like Gov. Bob McDonnell make it sound like every penny of tax revenue will go to existing roads and schools. But if the oil and gas industry expects the money to be spent on supporting the industry, how much will really be left for your community?

What the Frack? Fracking Closer to “Reality” in NC (Part...

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A bill opening the door to fracking (hydraulic fracturing) within a few years moved out of committee this week in the North Carolina General Assembly. The possible advent of fracking in NC was the brainchild of a NC senator.


Somewhere in Mecklenburg County miles from the believed natural gas trove beneath rural Chatham County and job-starved Sanford, is a dentist with drilling on the brain.

So begins an Indy Week article.  You can almost hear the tooth doc saying, "Drill, Baby, drill."  Sen. Rucho can hardly wait to use hydraulic fracturing, which injects a "witches brew" of chemicals under high pressure to tap gas resources purportedly beneath rural Chatham County and Sanford.  In either case, the effort would be dangerously (from a seismic perspective) near the Sharon Harris nuclear plant.  And equally important, it has the potential to destroy the ground water (and therefore the drinking water) for a large area of NC. You've  got to wonder how dentistry is considered sufficient background for the man who would lead NC down this "scorched-earth" path. You know, they had to destroy the NC quality of life to save it.

The version passing out of committee is the more lax of the proposals envisioned by NC lawmakers.  A somewhat more protective plan (which advocates seem a bit too sanguine about--more on that later) has also been proposed, but awaits action.  

Why Isn’t the Tea Party Outraged About Fracking?

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Don QuixoteIf you're looking for evidence the Tea Party is a fake movement funded by polluters like the Koch brothers to distract voters into freaking out about fake threats while overlooking real ones, look no further than fracking. As Mother Jones reports, Tea Partiers in Kansas and Arizona are losing their minds not just about current made-up anti-sustainability and Islamophobic conspiracies, but the possibility of future residents deciding to solve aforementioned made-up problems. But what about the very real threat posed by the natural gas drilling technique known as fracking? While it creates huge profits for corporate drillers, nearby residents see few benefits and face potential health threats:
The report, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen. Other chemicals included heptane, octane and diethylbenzene but information on their toxicity is limited.

"Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells," the report said. "The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period." That's due to exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes, all of which have neurological and/or respiratory effects, the study said. Those effects could include eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing.

"We also calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away]," the report said. "Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios."

Much more data is needed on the threats posed by fracking to our air, water and public health. To learn more about fracking, tune in to NPR's series this week, The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers.

When Energy Industry Greed and Wall Street Corruption Converge

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Aubrey McClendonChesapeake Energy has been fined repeatedly for its sloppy safety record when it comes to "fracking" natural gas drilling. Now Aubrey McClendon, the same CEO who repeatedly professed Chesapeake's innocence on safety violations, is stepping down as chairman of the board after a Reuters report revealed he was playing Wall Street-style accounting games, using company resources to rake in extra cash for himself:
Aubrey McClendon, the embattled chief executive of natural gas company Chesapeake Energy, will relinquish his title as chairman of the board, the company said Tuesday.

The news follows last week's announcement by Chesapeake that McClendon agreed to negotiate an early termination of the controversial Founder Well Participation Program (FWPP), which allowed him to take personal stakes in wells drilled by the company.

The incentive program came under fire last month following news that McClendon took out loans worth over $1 billion against his personal stake in the company's wells, raising concerns about a conflict of interest.

How the hell does this guy not get fired outright? What does it say about the state of the energy industry & corporate America that this guy is revealed to be using Chesapeake Energy as his own personal piggybank and he still gets to stay on as chief executive officer?

Fracking, Suspected in Virginia’s Quake, Linked to Ohio Tremors

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frack-ohioAfter Virginia's August 23rd earthquake, there was speculation about whether it was linked to nearby gas fracking. In the wake of a series of quakes in Ohio capped by a 4.0 rumbler on Saturday, officials aren't being so cautious - they're ordering nearby fracking wells to shut down:
The quake was the 11th over the last eight months in Mahoning County, all within two miles of the injection wells, he said. Saturday's quake was the largest yet. A quake on Dec. 24 measured 2.4.

There is "little doubt" that the quake is linked to injection wells that the state and the owner agreed on Friday to shut down, [state geologist Michael C.] Hansen said. [...]

The wells are among 177 in Ohio. Drilling wastes from Ohio and Pennsylvania are being pumped in increasing volumes into the wells for permanent disposal.

Geologists have long suspected that injecting liquids into underground rock formations can trigger earthquakes along fault lines. The liquids allow rocks to flow more easily past each other. Earthquakes have been linked to injection wells in Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas.

Learn more about fracking from the Environmental Working Group, and how it cause earthquakes from the Christian Science Monitor's Pete Spotts.

Tonight (Oct. 18th): Go See “Gasland” in Arlington

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Gasland PosterHere's a chance to see the award-winning documentary Gasland while supporting a great organization:
Gasland, The Movie
NRECA, 4301 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
October 18, 7-9pm

Delegate Patrick Hope, The Virginia Progressive Caucus, The Virginia Sierra Club & The Virginia League of Conservation Voters invite you to watch the thought provoking movie, Gasland. Tuesday, October 18, 2011 from 7:00 - 9:00 pm at National Rural Electric Cooperative Association 4301 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203. Proceeds will benefit the Virginia Progressive Caucus - Friend $25 • Donor $50 • Sponsor $100 • Patron $250 • Benefactor $500. To register in advance visit https://secure.actblue.com/ent... or call Mary 703-486-1010

I can't make the movie, but just contributed $25 anyway to show my support for the Virginia Progressive Caucus. You should too & ActBlue makes it easy, so go give $5, $10, $25 or more right now.