Social Justice News Fall 2017

Water and Climate

Water is life -- If abundant, we can prosper; if deficient, we will perish. Locally and globally, our water pollution and maldistribution problems are legendary.  But the mother of all assaults on water is climate change.  It brings droughts and floods and so much more, causing millions to suffer here and abroad.

I have dedicated my life to fighting human-caused climate change.  On the farm where I live and work, I’m adapting my forest so it will continue sequestering carbon in a hotter, drier, more wildfire-prone future.  I write fiction and essays to raise awareness and explore solutions.  And I came to SFUU to join with others who seek to change their lives in order to help arrest it.  

I see our government rolling back greenhouse gas regulations, ending climate research and destroying climate data, pulling out of the Paris accords while promoting the consumption that brought this horror.

In response, I think we need a revolution -- not just waving signs and shouting, but a monumental shift in our core values.  I see a need for three steps;  Examine how we live -- how we’re part of the problem; Change our lives -- become the solution;  Invite others to join us.

I don’t think we need the politics of blame.  Rather, let’s redefine our live and retake the ethical high-ground. That can lead to community action, and ultimately to the politics of true and lasting change.

Let’s join together and redefine, then recreate the world.

Allen Edwards


 

Letter Writing Campaign--Fracking and Water

Social Justice Letter Writing Team

From Time to time the Social Justice Letter Writing Team conducts a study of an issue, and produces a fact sheet, a template advocacy to appropriate legislators or policy makers, and contact list for congregants to use for writing letters of their own if they elect to do so.  The letters are made available at services and online. The current focus issue of Caring for the Earth--Water and Food as it Relates to Water, is greatly affected by the fracking activities of oil and gas companies. Effects of fracking activities on California water is explored here, and advocacy focuses on California decision-makers.

Fact Sheet

Introduction to Fracking, Produced Water, and Its Use in Crop Irrigation (2/19/17)

     1. Fracking is the injection of water and chemicals deep into the earth to break up stone (shale) so that the crude oil locked within can be released and eventually refined into petroleum products.  Since the 1940s over 1,000,000 US wells have been fracked, including 20,000 to 30,000 between 2011 and 2015.

     2. Benefits of the controversial process of fracking include:  potential US petroleum independence, an increase in high paying jobs, and the world-wide decrease in the cost of oil, its derivative products, and natural gas.  

     3. Negatives are:  

          a. only partially known geological effects (e.g., earthquakes in Oklahoma)             

          b. the depletion of oil reserves

          c. the continued dependence on a non-renewable resource

          d. the danger in transporting the volatile petroleum (Several oil train derailments    

         and the resulting explosions and fires have caused property damage and          

         fatalities.)

          e. the use of immense quantities of water (especially problematic in dry areas

         such as the western US)

          f. the creation of large quantities of produced water, that is, water polluted by the       

         chemicals used in the fracking process.

     4. The exact chemical composition of the fluid injected into the wells is a trade secret of the oil companies, but it includes water, a proppant (e.g., sand), and one or more chemicals.  The EPA knows of 1,084 chemicals that have been used in fracking. 

    5. The formula may vary from well to well depending the hardness of the shale.  Fracturing can occur repeatedly in the same well thus requiring more fresh water and generating even more produced water.  

    6.  Produced water  is the chemical-laden liquid generated by the fracking process.  Estimated amounts of fluids recovered from drilling vary from 15% to 80%.

    7. This by product of drilling is generated continually during gas production.  

    8. 80% of produced water is generated in the western US with California generating 60,738 acre feet, that is, one surface acre one foot deep.  For comparison, Folsom Lake holds 976,000 acre feet of water.  

    9. The September 2011 Bureau of Reclamation report by Guerra, Dahm, and Dundorf suggests the following uses for produced water:  a. raising stream flows, b. watering livestock, c. additional fracking, d. suppressing dust, e. putting out fires, f. drinking by humans.  This report contains information about the levels of chemicals safe for animals and the EPA's chemical allowances for drinking water.  There is no information about the chemicals found in produced water at various well sites.

      10. In its December 2016 report the Environmental Protection Agency identified several stages in the cycle of the fracking’s water use:  withdrawing water, mixing chemicals with the water, injecting the hydraulic fluid into the wells, and collecting and disposing of the produced water.  

    11. The report maintains that "these activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances," especially in areas where there is a lot of fracking.  The more serious impacts include:

          a. Water withdrawals in areas with limited groundwater

          b. Large chemical spills of fracking fluid or produced water resulting in

         groundwater contamination

          c. Injection of fracking fluid into leaky wells that allow contamination of    

         groundwater

          d. Injection of fracking fluid directly into groundwater

          e. Release of inadequately treated wastewater into surface water sources

          f. Leakage of fracking wastewater from unlined pits into groundwater sources

    12. The authors of the EPA study note that "Data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA's ability to fully assess the potential impacts on drinking water resources both locally and nationally.” 

    13. The Ground Water Protection Council maintains a website at www.fracfocus.org where drilling companies may submit fracking information about water, chemicals, etc. for specific wells, but it doesn’t seem that reporting is mandatory.

    14. EPA conclusions about the effects of hydraulic fracking on surface and groundwater at different stages of the water cycle:

    a. “Spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids and additives during the chemical mixing stage

    of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle have reached surface water resources in some

    cases and have the potential to reach groundwater resources.”

    b. “ . . . the mechanical integrity of the well and the vertical separation distance

    between the targeted rock formation and the underground drinking water resources

    are important factors that affect the frequency and severity of impacts on drinking

    water resources.”

    c. “Spills of produced water during the produced water handling stage of the

    hydraulic fracturing water cycle have reached groundwater and surface water

    resources in some cases.”

    d. “. . . discharges of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface

    water resources have contributed to elevated levels of hazardous disinfection

    byproducts in at least one downstream drinking water system.”

    15. “Some of the chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle are known to be hazardous to human health.  Of the 1,606 chemicals identified by the EPA, 173 had chronic oral toxicity values from federal, state, and international sources that met the EPA’s criteria for inclusion in this report.”

    16. “Generally, comprehensive information on the location of activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle is lacking, either because it is not collected, not publicly available, or prohibitively difficult to aggregate."

    17.  Produced Water and Crop Irrigation.  In 2013 in California the extraction 150 million barrels of oil generated about 240,000 acre feet of produced water.  “About 50,000 acre feet per year of produced water is used for irrigation of crops for human consumption.”  

    18. Treated produced water has been used to irrigate crops near Bakersfield for over 30 years because at this point “no studies have shown that irrigating food crops with produced water poses any threat to public health.”  

    19.  According to the Bakersfield Californian Kern County oil producers and local farmers are looking for grant money to build a reservoir and pipeline that would allow the storage and shipment of produced water to irrigate nearby farms that produce half the country’s carrots and 40% of its pistachios.  One motive for the project is that it would save the oil companies and farmers $3.5 annually.  There was no mention in the article whether the produced water is safe to use on crops.

    20. The oil companies who must get rid of this fracking by product are the ones monitoring its safety.  Because of growing concern the Central Valley Water Board recently authorized a Food Safety Expert Panel consisting of representatives from several state agencies to look into the issue.  
 

Sources

Environmental Protection Agency.  Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas:  Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States Executive Summary.  EPA-600-R-16-236ES.  December 2016.  www.epa.gov/hfstudy  

Guerra, Kat, Katherine Dahm, and Steve Dundorf.  Oil and Gas Produced Water Management and Beneficial Use in the Western United States.  Science and Technology Program Report 157, US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation.  September 2011.  www.usbr.gov/research/AWT/reportpdfs

Jerome, Sara.  “Reusing Produced Water to Irrigate Crops” Water Online 27 January 2015.

State Water Resources Control Board, California Environmental Protection Agency.  “Frequently Asked Questions About Recycled Oilfield Water for Crop Irrigation.”  Fact Sheet.  Sacramento, CA  5 April 2016.  www.waterboards.ca.gov

Veil, John A., Marcus G. Puder Deborah Elcock, and Robert J. Redweik, Jr. Paper Describing Produced Water from Production of Crude Oil Natural Gas, and Coal Bed Methane. Prepared for the US Department of Energy Technology Laboratory under Contract W-31-109-Eng-38.  January 2004.  circle of blue.org


Sample Letter

Re:  Risks to food crops from water produced by 'fracking"

Dear :

We would like to draw your attention to the practice of irrigating food crops in California using water produced by the hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' process.

The exact chemical composition of the fluid injected into the wells is a trade secret of the oil companies, but it includes water, a proppant (e.g., sand), and one or more chemicals.  The EPA knows of 1,084 chemicals that have been used in fracking. 

Produced water  is the chemical-laden liquid generated by the fracking process.  The EPA has reported: “Some of the chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle are known to be hazardous to human health.  Of the 1,606 chemicals identified by the EPA, 173 had chronic oral toxicity values from federal, state, and international sources that met the EPA’s criteria for inclusion in this report.”

Kern County oil producers and local farmers are looking for grant money to build a reservoir and pipeline that would allow the storage and shipment of produced water to irrigate nearby farms that produce half the country’s carrots and 40% of its pistachios.  One motive for the project is that it would save the oil companies and farmers $3.5 annually.

The use of chemical laden water to irrigate food crops seems to be a practice fraught with risks to human health.

We look forward to hearing from you on this issue that has an impact on all of us. Safe water and food are fundamental human rights.

Sincerely,

Suggested Addressees

 

NATIONAL CONTACTS

President Donald Trump

1600 Pennsylvania Blvd. NW

Washington DC  20500

https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

 

Catherine R. McCabe, Acting EPA Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

(202) 564-4700

 

SENATORS

Senator Feinstein, Dianne - (D - CA)

331 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-3841

Contact: www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)

112 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3553
FAX (202) 224-2200

REPRESENTATIVES

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (1st District)

322 Cannon House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-3076

 

Rep. Tom McClintock (4th District)

2312 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-2511

FAX (202) 225-5444

 

STATE CONTACTS

Gov. Jerry Brown

State Capitol Building

Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 2841