State Director, Environment Massachusetts
State Director, Environment Massachusetts
At the Springfield release of Shalefield Stories, Environment Massachusetts was joined by City Councilor Melvin Edwards, Mt. Holyoke professor Jens Christiansen, and Sherri Long, a local activist whose friends and family members in Texas have been affected by fracking.
Boston — As the Legislature debates a bill that would create a ten-year moratorium on fracking, elected officials and local activists gathered with Environment Massachusetts today to release Shalefield Stories, a collection of narratives from people whose health and livelihoods have been affected by fracking across the country.
“Across the country, fracking is polluting air and water and making people sick,” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate for Environment Massachusetts. “There are real people whose lives have been affected by fracking. These are their stories, and we ask our legislators to heed their words of warning and act soon to ensure that fracking never comes to Massachusetts.”
People recalling their experiences with fracking damage in Shalefield Stories include:
- Judy Armstrong Stiles of Bradford County, Pa., who spoke of the barium and arsenic that was found in her drinking water, and then in her blood, after Chesapeake began drilling on her land;
- June Chappel of Washington County, Pa., who lived with a 15 million gallon fracking waste pit just 200 feet from her house; and
- Deborah Rogers from Fort Worth, Texas, who was exposed when drilling began near her home, contaminating her water with toxic compounds ranging from chloroform to benzene, a carcinogen. She quickly developed nausea, severe nosebleeds, and painful headaches when fracking began near her property.
“Families across the country have seen fracking pollute their air and water, threaten their health, and destroy their livelihood,” said State Representative Peter Kocot (D-Northampton). “It’s clear that fracking has no place in Massachusetts. We should act now to make sure that fracking never comes to the Pioneer Valley by approving H.3796.”
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of drilling that involves injecting millions of gallons of water, often laced with toxic chemicals, deep underground to fracture rock formations and release oil and gas. There is a growing number of documented cases of individuals suffering acute and chronic health effects while living near fracking operations—including nausea, rashes, dizziness, headaches and nose bleeds. Physicians reviewing medical records in Pennsylvania have called these illnesses “the tip of the iceberg” of fracking impacts on health.
The Hartford Shale, a rock formation under the Connecticut River Valley, may contain deposits of gas suitable for fracking. Moreover, as New York State considers allowing fracking, drilling operators may view Western Massachusetts as a convenient dumping ground for their toxic wastewater.
“It’s shocking to me that fracking proceeds virtually unregulated, in the face of evidence that it has caused damage to the environment and to public health in communities across the country,” said State Representative Denise Provost (D-Somerville). “It’s up to us to make sure that Massachusetts is protected from fracking. That’s why I introduced a bill to keep fracking, as well as its toxic waste, out of Massachusetts, and why I urge my colleagues to act soon to approve H.3796.”
“As a City Councilor, I have a responsibility to protect the citizens of Springfield and their property,” said Melvin Edwards, City Councilor in Springfield, and president of Keep Springfield Beautiful, an organization that educates and organizes Springfield residents on environmental issues. “Allowing fracking to come to the Pioneer Valley would endanger Massachusetts citizens’ health and destroy our natural environment.”
Last year, Environment Massachusetts worked with Reps. Denise Provost and Peter Kocot to introduce a bill to prohibit fracking and the processing of fracking wastewater in Massachusetts. Environment Massachusetts delivered over 11,700 petition signatures against fracking, and released a report quantifying the impacts of fracking to air, water, and landscapes across the country.
“There is no question that fracking has a harmful impact on public health,” said Erica Streit-Kaplan, MPH, MSW. “My years working in children’s health and my obligation as a mother deeply motivate me to protect children’s bodies from the chemicals involved in fracking. Our legislators have an responsibility to protect Massachusetts’ citizens, and they should respond to the ample evidence of fracking’s health risks by passing the moratorium on fracking.”
“With the current status of our environment, investment in fracking is both misguided and destructive,” said Dr. Jens Christiansen, Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College. “There is no choice: we must invest in renewable energy. It is time to move on from the dirty fuels that fracking produces.”
In November, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture approved H.3796, which would create a ten-year moratorium on fracking and the disposal of its wastewater in Massachusetts. Currently, the bill is before the House Committee on Ways and Means, the final step before it comes up for a vote of the full House of Representatives.
“Shalefield Stories gives a voice to the victims, the people living on the frontlines of fracking, and their message is clear,” concluded Ben Hellerstein. “We urge our decision-makers to pass the moratorium on fracking to protect Massachusetts from dirty drilling.”
Environment Massachusetts is a statewide, citizen-supported environmental advocacy organization, working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future.