I recently took part in something amazing..(and no, I didn’t get arrested this time!) I was part of multi-stakeholder, coordinated effort that culminated in a rally and lobby day at the New Jersey State House, calling for a ban on the “discharge, disposal, processing or storage of fracking waste.” Concerned and caring people – moms, dads, grandparents, activists, environmentalists, business representatives, faith and civic organizations came together to let our legislators know that we believe fighting for clean water and the protection of our watersheds and waterways is of paramount importance to us, for our children, for their future and for ours.
As a quick “primer” hydraulic fracturing is a gas drilling technique which involves the injection of millions of gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids – a mixture of chemicals, water and sand – into each gas well to create pressure that cracks open rock underground, releasing natural gas. The often hidden and unaddressed issue is what happens to these fluids when they come back up to the surface, as not all of the fracking fluid stays in the ground. An open ended question remains: do we want this toxic chemical laced “cocktail” to stay underground and potentially contaminate our aquifers, or do we want it out of the ground, and if it comes back out, what do we do with it? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council there are five main ways of “disposing” of this waste:
1. Treat it and then discharge it into surface waters (although most treatment facilities aren’t designed to remove the pollutants and toxins found in fracking waste water);
2. Spread the fluid onto roads for ice and dust control (and then into my watershed??!);
3. Disposal or store it in open pits;
4. Underground injection; (causing earthquakes in Ohio)
5. Recycle and use again for more fracking.
Fracking waste can deplete and contaminate local water, damage theenvironment and threaten public health. According to Food and Water Watch “waste produced by hydraulic fracturing is highly toxic and can contain radioactive elements, arsenic, mercury, and hazardous hydrocarbons such as BTEX, barium, bromides, chlorides, sulfides, endocrine disrupting chemicals, radioactive materials such as Radium-228 and 226 and other pollutants.” Echoing my 12 year old daughter when she read the list: “YUCK!!”
At the Trenton Rally something that felt slightly uncomfortable, but was so important to hear, was the statement of Grace Spencer, Newark Assemblywoman and current Chair of the State Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. I felt like the Assemblywoman was looking directly at me as she reminded all of us that it is our duty and our responsibility to urge our legislators to do what is right for all of us. In this case, that meant urging our elected officials to vote for the Ban Fracking Waste bill. I paraphrase, but the Assemblywoman’s strong message included the following warning and slight reprimand: “Shame on you, if you DON’T know what district you are in or who your state representative is. Shame on you if your representative doesn’t hear from you directly as to what your concerns are!”
Assemblywoman Spencer’s committee considered, and then passed the fracking waste bill the day of our Rally, I think, in no small part, to all the concerned citizens that had been calling their representatives over the
Too often, we assume either that: our legislators are “minding the store,” creating laws that protect us, doing the right thing by us; or that we “can’t make a difference anyway” – we are only one voice, one individual, one vote. This is an important year, a presidential election year, and we all need to find out where our representatives stand on issues we care about and issues that are important to the future of our children, like those related to a clean energy future, and trying to keep our changing climate under control. These should NOT be partisan issues!
What gave me hope – At this same Rally day on my visit to the New Jersey State House, I happen to be on one of the State House elevators at the same time with a legislator (I knew this gentleman was a legislator because in NJ, legislators are suppose to wear a lapel pin that identifies them as such when they are in the State House – or so I have been told and so it seems!) I didn’t recognize this gentleman as one of my representatives, but I have become empowered and embolden of late by my recent activist work so I introduced myself and told him why I was in Trenton that day.
As I missed my floor and rode with the Assemblyman to his floor, he suggested we get off the elevator together and continue our discussion. We spoke together as concerned parents – parents, who care about our children and their future. His initial comment when he heard what I was doing in Trenton was: “we will likely disagree.” But instead, I came away from our brief discussion feeling hopeful as we had found common ground, and an important issue to agree on – our kids future. I believe that with this legislator, and with others at the local, state and national levels, creating a safe and secure future for children will be an important starting point.So, learn the facts on issues that concern you and that you care about. Find out who your local, state and national representatives are, and reach out to them as parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts, caring individuals who TOGETHER can and must create a better future for our children and for us all.