Madison County to be Affected by Hazardous Liquids from Fracking
With the dramatic expansion of the fracking industry in neighboring states and new interest in Kentucky’s deep shale formations, it’s important to look closely at the consequences of fossil fuel use and alternatives for Kentucky.
The proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipeline was our wake up call.
In spring 2013, many Kentuckians were startled by a knock on their door and the news that a company wanted to put a gas line through their property. When the truth filtered out, landowners and others protested: why would anyone want a 24 inch line of hazardous explosive liquids pumped under high pressure through their farms and neighborhoods?
Danger, decreased property value, and the threat of soil and water contamination galvanized communities along the 13 county swath of the proposed pipeline route to pass resolutions against the pipeline, attracting regional and national attention. Just a year later the incredible grassroots effort had beaten back the Bluegrass Pipeline, which was formally withdrawn in April 2014.
Unfortunately, other pipelines for the fracking industry are imminent. Pipeline giants Kinder Morgan and MarkWest plan to “re-purpose” the Tennessee Gas line, which has carried natural gas since its installation in the 1950s, to carry hazardous natural gas liquids by 2017. Eighteen counties and communities including Morehead, Richmond, Danville, Campbellsville, and Glasgow will be put at risk.
Why is Kentucky suddenly being threatened by large-scale fracking (whereby chemicals, water, and sand are forced at high pressure miles beneath the Earth’s surface to shatter shale rock formations in order to release trapped natural gas)? Although fracking is not new in Kentucky, new advances in fracking technology enable companies to tap huge shale gas reserves in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia and elsewhere. Shale gas production is expected to increase 113% from 2011-2040. Because the oil and gas industry enjoys exemptions from key provisions of the nation’s environmental laws, it has been able to frack fast: more than 15 million Americans live within one mile of a well drilled after the year 2000.
Byproducts of shale gas production include hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane, butane, and benzene, known collectively as natural gas liquids. Used in plastics production, natural gas liquids must be separated at cracker plants before they can be utilized. Since most of these refineries are on the Gulf Coast and most of the production is in the northeast, Kentucky is slated to become pipeline alley.
Or should we?
Many of the natural gas liquids released by fracking are explosive, asphixiant, and carcinogenic pollutants. Additionally, corrosive salts, radioactive material, and toxic metals are brought to the surface via fracking. These toxins, coupled with the chemicals injected by drilling companies, contaminate water, endanger aquifers, and jeopardize all life forms. Documented by over 150 studies, the deleterious effects of fracking have saddled many communities with decades of cleanup costs. Thousands of residents have had their water contaminated, endangering their health, disrupting businesses, and rendering many homes unmarketable.
Fracking also consumes water. Many wells require 2-8 million gallons of water to frack. Most of this water is not recoverable. In some parts of the west, gas and oil companies are outbidding farmers for water rights, driving up water prices and even displacing agricultural use of the land. Fracking fragments forests, degrades air quality, and triggers earthquakes. Fracking also significantly exacerbates climate change. While burning natural gas may produce less carbon dioxide than coal, the large releases of the powerful greenhouse gas methane at well heads and pipelines leaks make fracking just as potent a danger to a stable climate as coal combustion.
Kentucky can thrive with an economy that looks beyond fossil fuels. Aggressive energy efficiency, conservation, and clean renewable energy resources have been shown to work while creating jobs. Germany, which receives sunlight equivalent to Alaska, is successfully transitioning to solar and other renewable energies. A 2012 report by Synapse Energy Economics projected that 28,000 new jobs for Kentuckians could be created over the next 10 years with the passage of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act by state legislators.
Gas and oil companies are using the billions of dollars they have made by cashing in on the planet’s resources to convince us that burning natural gas is good. They are wrong. Burning fossil fuels is outdated, and it’s time that Kentucky and the country use technologies that sustain rather than destroy life.
The citizens that united to fight the Bluegrass Pipeline are hosting a summit in Lexington on November 8 to educate Kentuckians about fracking, its potential consequences, and alternatives for communities seeking a sustainable future. The public is invited to learn more about Pipelines, Fracking, and Kentucky’s Future Beyond Fossil Fuels by visiting www.stopbluegrasspipeline.com or www.nobluegrasspipeline.us.