Green Party Congressional candidate Joseph Diaferia (NY-16)
has endorsed a complete ban on the practice of induced hydraulic fracturing for
methane gas. The practice, more commonly known as hydrofracking or simply
fracking, has, since the late 1990s, become the technique by which methane is
extracted from layers of shale deep beneath the earth’s surface. Extracting methane by this method requires horizontal drilling and the irrigation of chemically treated water at very high pressure, a process candidate Diaferia charges, is environmentally reckless and a grave public health risk. Said Diaferia, “Methane is a greenhouse gas, and we already know of the damaging effect greenhouse gases are having on our planet. I should add that such gases also contain potentially carcinogenic components and smog-inducing compounds, the latter of which have been shown to contribute to the process of global dimming. However, the extraction process itself poses enormous dangers, as higher rates of
respiratory diseases have been reported in areas near drilling sites, and spill
and leaks of the chemically treated water used in the process can migrate into
waterways and reservoirs.”
Diaferia cited recent studies conducted by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee that have warned of dire health risks posed by the use of certain fracking chemicals, despite industry claims to the contrary. For example, between 2005 and 2009, several oil and gas companies injected literally hundreds of millions of gallons of fracking chemicals into the earth including over ten million gallons of fluid that contained carcinogenic components. In addition, Diaferia noted that fracked methane contains many times more radioactive radon than the non-fracked methane. Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer.
Diaferia also took note of an Environmental Working Group
investigation conducted in 2010 that found that some fracking fluids to contain
93 times more benzene than is typically found in diesel. Thus, the amount of benzene from a single well could contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water. Added Diaferia, “When one considers that perhaps 25 percent of fracking materials are carcinogenic, while another 40 to 50 percent can affect the
immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems, and another 75 percent can affect
sensory organs, what we have here, obviously, is a commodity whose procurement is hardly worth the environmental and public health risk.”
Diaferia also referenced a report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that fracking is responsible for certain seismic phenomena that the United States, Japan, and Canada have experienced: “According to the USGS study, there was a
noticeable increase in seismic activity in areas where fracking is taking place—particularly in the Midwest—beginning about 12 years ago, and an exponential increase beginning in 2009. Are fracking advocates prepared to attribute this to
coincidence?” Although Diaferia acknowledged that most earthquakes caused by fracking-related processes are relatively small, he expressed concerns as to the cumulative effect of such fracking induced quakes, and the propensity for wastewater drilling to cause larger quakes.
Diaferia also wondered as to the cause of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Virginia on August 23, 2011. Diaferia commented, “I had many of my students call me that day wondering if I thought HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, located in Gakona, Alaska) was the culprit, and although I may have allowed for that possibility, if the earthquake had some anthropogenic cause, the more evident possibility is that the cause was fracking . But just so there’s no misunderstanding, in the case of the 2011 quake, I’m not prepared to blame fracking in absolute terms. But it is certainly a possibility. We could speculate similarly with regard to the mysterious booms heard and felt in the area of Clintonville, Wisconsin back in March. There is gas drilling going on in that state as well.”
Diaferia is distancing himself from political figures who
have called for mere moratoria on fracking, stating that such moratoria could
allow for the eventual return to the full practice: “Without a complete ban on
fracking, we risk a return first to limited fracking as [Governor Andrew] Cuomo
is proposing, and then a return to the practice of fracking at full tilt—so to
speak. What policing measures could be taken to ensure that fracking does not exceed someone’s definition of limited?” Diaferia continued, “But even the long term effects of limited fracking—whatever that means—will bear horrendously upon our environment and public health. So today, I am calling upon every governmental entity—federal, state, and municipal—to ban the practice of fracking completely and permanently.”
Diaferia concluded by commending the Westchester County Board of Legislators, particularly Legislator Peter Harckham (D-Katonah), for crafting legislation that would ban the treatment of wastewater from fracking in sewage plants in the county. However, Diaferia is also calling upon the Legislature to “go the extra step” and pass resolutions calling upon the state and federal governments to institute complete bans.
Diaferia, 51, is a political science and history professor
in New Jersey’s university system. He is a former candidate for the Westchester County Board of Legislators in his second campaign for public office.