Fracking: Environmental justice

After protests from parents stopped an oil company from drilling their wells near a mostly white school, they moved their operation to a property close to a school whose students were mostly black and Latino.

It’s like they said, ‘Put it where the Mexicans live, over there it’s O.K.’” said Yveth Haro, 42, whose son Elian, 10, is a student at Bella Romero. “Well I don’t think it’s O.K.

There is no mention of environmental racism or justice in the BLM report. There should be.

Kern County is the most-fracked county in California by a wide margin. This region also has the worst air quality in the nation, as well as highly elevated rates of cancer and respiratory illness. For the people that live here, fracking means more oil extraction, more crippling climate impacts, and more impacts on their health.

kern statistics

The San Joaquin Valley has the worst air quality in the U.S. and experiences severe groundwater depletion and contamination,” said Nayamin Martinez, director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network. “These problems are only going to be exacerbated if oil extraction and fracking are allowed on public lands. We should learn from the damage we have done to fenceline communities in Kern County, where thousands of low-income residents live near oil wells that emit benzene and other dangerous pollutants.” (CBD)

  • There’s no description of comprehensive measures needed to ensure that oil and gas development does not contribute to environmental degradation, pollution, or threatens the health of residents in neighboring communities. 
  • There are no maps showing how close dwelling are to leasable lands described in this EIS.
  • There are no demographic maps showing neighborhood makeup.

Like this one from NRDC

San Juaquin

map of demographics

Are gas and oil industries good neighbors? No.

  • Noise can impact the health of people living in neighborhoods close to oil and gas operations.
  • It can threatens water quality. We somehow accept that millions of Americans can’t drink the water from their own wells or sink taps.
  • Air pollution is worse where non-white and low-income people live.
  • Millions of people in California are exposed to air pollution from fracking and drilling – and environmental justice communities are hit the hardest. STAND-LA, an environmental justice coalition of community groups that seek to end neighborhood drilling, has persuaded the Los Angeles City Council to commission a study of a 2,500 ft buffer zone around oil and gas wells

  • Living near fossil fuel operations means dealing with spills and explosions from an industry that routinely shows they have little incentive to prevent these incidents.
  • In PA, researchers discovered that people of color are 39 percent of the population living within three miles of existing and proposed power plants, though they are only 22 percent of Pennsylvania’s total population. In addition, the poverty rate is 60 percent higher within three miles of the plants compared to the rest of the state.
  • In addition, last month researchers reported that radon—the world’s second leading cause of lung cancer—is much more prevalent in Pennsylvania buildings near natural gas development than in other parts of the state.
  • And a week after the radon study, the state released data that showed sulfur dioxide emissions soared 57 percent from 2012 to 2013 at Pennsylvania natural gas sites. Sulfur dioxide harms the respiratory system and can cause or worsen illnesses such as asthma.
  • A 2012 study by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People found that people of color are 39 percent of the population within three miles of the coal-fired power plants throughout the nation.
  • a 2017 study by PSEHealthy Energy revealed that half of California’s gas-fired power plants were located in communities designated as disadvantaged.
  • In South Texas, a study proved what people already knew… that primarily African-American neighborhoods on the east side of San Antonio had all the fuel storage tanks and that poor and minority neighborhoods had a disproportionate share of fracking wastewater wells in South Texas’ Eagle Ford. Chavel Lopez who lives just a few miles north of Texas’ Eagle Ford stated For some of these Hispanic neighborhoods, they were already dealing with uranium mining impacts and now the fracking of oil and gas.”  

Do gas and oil industries help the communities they come to economically? No.

  • Oil companies want highly-trained people working on their sites and their employees are  often drawn from outside the area where they’re working. Responding to criticism that oil and gas jobs aren’t going to locals, Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, told Ohio Public Radio, “You just don’t hire people who’ve had two weeks of training and put them on this rig. You hire people who are equipped and ready to do this kind of job and you get them from where they can be supplied to.” Stewart pointed to hotel and restaurant jobs as potential benefits for those living where drilling takes place.
  • A study from Headwaters Economics found that oil and gas drilling don’t even raise incomes when they come to town — in fact, they lower them. Looking at the period from 1980 to 2011, the study found that longer periods of specialization in oil and gas meant lower per-capita incomes, more crime, and lower educational achievement. Per capita income was found to be as much as $7,000 lower in counties with a long-term focus on drilling compared to those that only experienced a year of it.
  • Although many studies show positive short-term income effects from oil and gas development, the Headwater study study was significant because it showed that they don’t last long-term. Again, that points to limited job creation for high-income specialists as drilling starts, before the negative effects of extraction take over.
  • Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute told ThinkProgress, the oil and gas industry is one of the worst to invest in if you want to create jobs. “In oil and gas, 12 percent” of value added investment goes to employees.  In renewable manufacturing industries, it’s 60 percent.
  • Oil and gas industry is a capital-intensive business, with the majority of its investment going to physical capital and comparatively little going to the workers. Spending largely goes to buy land with fossil fuels underneath, to buy or rent the specialized equipment that’s a big part of the business, and to build infrastructure that doesn’t require much human time or effort once it’s done. “In an industry that’s capital-intensive, more of the revenue coming in goes towards paying for equipment,” Garrett-Peltier said, “which means it’s going more to profits for the owners of the equipment.”
  • Robert Pollin, also of the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute stated that ownership of valuable deposits of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal is also concentrated among the wealthy or utilities owned by large companies with highly-concentrated ownership. Regular home owners may not even have rights to the oil and gas beneath their homes, making them vulnerable to fracking moving in close by.
  • “Green jobs are more accessible to less-skilled people,” Pollin told ThinkProgress, and investment in renewables and efficiency creates many more jobs per dollar spent. “Roughly speaking spending, $1 million spent on clean energy creates about 17 jobs,” Pollin said. “Spend $1 million on fossil fuels, and you get about five jobs.”