List

Graphic of an oil well leading to a home water supply.

Anti-Fracking Activism Moves from the Local to the National

Hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – is a process whereby fluid is injected into sub-surface rock formations in order to create fissures and enable the release of petrochemicals for extraction. Hydraulic fracturing in the United States has been historically restricted by regulations that sought to protect underground drinking water supplies from contamination.  However, with the release of the 2004 Environmental Protection Agency’s report Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs Studyand passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the regulations and restrictions surrounding hydraulic fracturing were eased and, subsequently, its use dramatically increased in the United States. The petroleum industry viewed the deregulation of hydraulic fracturing as an opportunity to tap known oil and natural gas reserves in the United States previously deemed too expensive to extract. With the support of state and federal government, the expanded use of fracking, coupled with increased global energy demands and persistently higher oil and gas prices, has led to a boom in American oil and natural gas production.

Despite the obvious economic benefits of increased oil and natural gas production in states like North Dakota, Colorado, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, environmental activists and community members have, over the past several years, mounted opposition to fracking were through the organization of local and regional activist networks. Often these initial challenges to fracking were grassroots responses to the deterioration of local environmental and public health conditions and assumed the form of petitions to local authorities and the subsequent passage of new ordinances and regulations. Initially, these efforts to restrict or ban the use of hydraulic fracturing experienced limited success with a number of local governments curbing the practice within their jurisdictions. To reassure a concerned public, the petroleum industry launched a public relations campaign that rejected the notion of public health or environmental risks associated with fracking; a campaign that was supported by academic researchsponsored by the petroleum industry and readily championed by state governments eager to secure the additional revenues associated with petroleum production.

With the release of Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland in 2010, anti-fracking activists networks were able to challenge the seemingly overwhelming power of the petroleum industry public relations campaign. Gasland not only won a special jury prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, it also won widespread positive reviews – including Bloomberg’s David Shiflett’s assessment that Josh Fox “may go down in history as the Paul Revere of fracking”. Gasland’s criticism of fracking has been challenged by two pro-fracking documentaries – Truthland produced by the Independent Petroleum Producers of America and FrackNation produced by documentary filmmakers and climate change skeptics Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney. The latest entrant in this war of fracking activism films is Promised Land, a feature film written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, which dramatizes the interplay between the economic benefits offered by the petroleum industry and the environmental, health and social consequences experienced by local communities.

These films are simply one arena where the petroleum industry and activists are contesting the benefits and impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Increasingly, local and municipal meetings – long the most fruitful path by which grassroots anti-fracking activists could seek to limit the practice of hydraulic fracturing – are becoming battlegrounds where the petroleum industry is facing stiffer opposition by a larger activist network with national and international reach. This trend will only continue with the establishment of the first national anti-fracking campaign,Americans Against Fracking, which launched in December 2012 and claimed more than 100 local anti-fracking groups as members. For those interested in studying the formation of activist networks, the anti-fracking groups presently provide an opportunity to examine exactly how smaller, local groups confederate into national campaigns.

Originally published by Anthropology News – Online.

By on .

Leave a Reply

  Posts

October 18th, 2015

Mapping the Dead in the Latest Israeli-Palestinian Violence

Basma Atassi at Al-Jazeera has put together a great storymap that explores the latest violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Complete with pictures, text and place location, this resource allows you to get a good sense of where, when and how the violence is occurring. Definitely worth a look.

October 16th, 2015

Netanyahu, Context & Responsibility

At the center of this current iteration of violence in Israel and Palestine stands the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has reacted to this violence as if he was surprised that Palestinians would resort to violence when for decades he has done everything within his power to thwart the establishment and growth of a responsible Palestinian civil society, expanded settlements with the explicit aim of crippling an emerging Palestinian state, and undermining the responsible leadership of Mahmoud Abbas at every possible opportunity.

October 8th, 2015

Abbas, Netanyahu and Responsible Leadership

Abbas is demonstrating his commitment to deescalating tensions and calming the violence that is a direct result of Netanyahu’s persistent efforts to whip Israeli society into a panicked frenzy about an existential threat lurking behind every corner.

June 30th, 2015

Our Dictator in Cairo – Abdel Fatah el-Sisi

So, once again, the foreign policy of the US has chosen perceived immediate stability over the somewhat more bumpy and unpredictable evolution of democracy in the Middle East. It’s not the first time we’ve done this… it’s sort of our thing at this point… we’re pro’s out it.

June 22nd, 2015

The Many Victims at Mother Emmanuel

The problem with Gosnell and others who make these arguments is that they believe intentionality serves as some magical “Get out of Jail Free” card that absolves perpetrators of the violence they commit. Further, and in many ways far more problematic, is the realization that Gosnell and others only want to use this logical canard to absolve themselves or other like them. No such compassion regarding intentionality and the multiplicity of victims derived from violence will ever be used with the families of the 9-11 hijackers. In the end, the fundamental mistake that Gosnell and others make over and over again is that they focus on issues of intentionality rather than on issues of responsibility.

March 4th, 2015

Mr. Netanyahu Goes to Congress

There are two things to never forget when considering Netanyahu’s views of regional threats. First, he is desperately seeking his “Churchill moment”. Second, he has a record of being blinded by his own biases and is never, ever a sober analyst of a situation

February 16th, 2015

Cursed Be The Peacemakers?

This video, produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, has been released as part of the current Israeli political contest where the extreme right wing of Israel is attempting to maintain the rightist complexion of the Israeli government. For me, the truly offensive aspect of this video is how it makes the case that working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians or defending Palestinian and Israeli human rights somehow makes you a threat to the country.

February 14th, 2015

The Danger of Molly White’s Islamophobia

Rep. White is the new poster child for the anti-Muslim bigotry, Islamic hatred and Islamophobia that is so deeply embedded in American society that it can hide in plain sight.

July 15th, 2014

In Focus: The Gaza Strip

As Israeli bombs are dropped throughout the Gaza Strip and Hamas missiles are launched into Israel, the media coverage has focused on discussing Gaza as a known yet ill-defined entity. We are made aware of roughly where it is (next to Israel), who lives there (Hamas) and what happens there (rockets are made and launched). But this reductionist view of Gaza doesn’t provide any insights into the common, everyday lived experience of the 1.8 million Palestinians who live in the 360 sq. km that makes up the Gaza Strip.

July 14th, 2014

Middle East News Review #28

The Middle East was plagued with news of violence this week. In Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Libya, episodes of violence resulted in death and destruction. Iran continued its negotiations with the US and EU this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement over the country’s nuclear program and removing the economic sanctions that have crippled its economy. In Iraq, violence between the militant group ISIS and the Baghdad government reached new heights as 29 people were found massacred in an apartment and Human Rights Watch condemned the government for mass executions carried out earlier this year. The direct physical violence in Iraq was mirrored this week with political turmoil as the government of Nouri al-Maliki erupted into conflict with the semi-autonomous Kurdish government.