Prenatal exposure to fracking chemicals may affect men's fertility

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," continues to cause much debate. While some people claim the practice is beneficial for the energy industry, others are concerned about the damage it may be causing to environmental and human health. Now, a new study fuels the latter concern, suggesting that prenatal exposure to chemicals used in fracking may influence a man's reproductive health in adulthood. Read more here..


Matt Damon Is Bewildered By Critics Who Didn't Love His New Anti-Fracking Film...

Matt Damon defended his new anti-fracking feature, Berlin film festival contender "Promised Land", Friday against poor reviews and ticket sales and said it was getting harder to make "issue movies".

Damon, who co-wrote the script and stars in the picture directed by Gus Van Sant, said he was bewildered by critics who found the story of a natural gas executive wrestling with his conscience implausible and incoherent.

"It didn't get the reception that I would have hoped for but that happens sometimes," he said. "I've had movies bomb worse than this one and then make their money back later."

Damon said he was trying nevertheless to take the knocks seriously, warning that having the major major Hollywood clout that he enjoys could be blinding.

"I'm leery of becoming one of those people who lives so much in a bubble, who thinks that everything I do is great," he said after a press screening of the film that drew polite applause.

"But with this one I just really love it and a big part of my heart is in it... and I don't understand what I'm hearing back."

Damon plays a top sales executive working for a company seeking to unlock natural gas from shale rock formations through a process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking".

He promises down-on-their-luck Kentucky farmers millions in exchange for their land rights, pitting their immediate economic survival against safety and pollution risks.

Damon, a longtime environmental advocate, said the issues were close to his heart "because the stakes are just so incredibly high and the debate is really raging right now everywhere all over the world."

The actor lamented that pulling together financing for movies not targeted at "13-year-old kids" was much tougher than just five years ago.

"It's getting harder and harder to make movies about things," he said, adding that many of his favourite collaborators were seeking refuge in television which is less expensive to produce and seeing a creative renaissance in the US.

Van Sant, who made the 1997 film "Good Will Hunting" for which Damon and his childhood friend Ben Affleck won a screenwriting Oscar, said he was attracted to the script because none of the characters are what they initially seem.

"He is perhaps a perfect combination of hero and non-hero," he said of Damon's salesman.

The movie, which Damon said cost less than $18 million to make, has only drawn about $7.6 million at the US box office since its late December release, according to trade magazine Variety.

"The authenticity of Van Sant's portraiture has the effect of exposing a certain inauthenticity at the story's core," a Variety critic wrote.

Energy firms have suggested the film was also marred by a conflict of interest because some of the financing came from the United Arab Emirates, a giant oil exporter for which gas extraction is a major threat.

Fracking has become one of the most divisive environmental issues in the energy sector, particularly in the United States.

Since 2007, it has made possible the cost-effective exploitation of immense oil and gas reserves beneath subterranean shale strata, driving down energy prices.

But campaigners argue fracking pollutes the water table and soil with the chemicals it requires and has even triggered earthquakes.

"Promised Land" is one of 19 contenders for the 63rd Berlinale's Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded on February 16.

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Ken Hall: Fracking studies show the fight must continue

Just because fracking is prohibited in New York is no reason to let your guard down. Those who want to keep their skills sharp should consider some news from California where protecting the water supply is an honest-to-goodness crisis.
According to a study just conducted by the California Council on Science and Technology, fracking in the state consumes about 2.6 billion gallons of fresh water each year, an impressive amount at any time, a sure attention-getter in the fourth year of a drought with no end in sight.
Not all that water needs to be lost. In California as elsewhere, fans of fracking promote the idea that wastewater can be treated and returned to use, perhaps for drinking and bathing, more likely for irrigation and other agricultural endeavors.
The problem, the study concluded, is knowing what was in that water, what remains and what it means to those who come in contact with it. In short, the study concluded that nobody knows very much about the toxic effects of these toxic chemicals or whether any amount of treatment can make this water safe. And as we know in New York, the oil and gas industry is reluctant to share much information about the chemicals injected into the ground to free the gas below, treating them as industrial secrets.
As a report on the California study put it last week, “According to the CCST assessment, the toxicity of half of the chemicals used in California fracking is not publicly available. More than half the chemicals have not been evaluated for basic tests ‘that are needed for understanding hazards and risks associated with chemicals.’”
In this case, what you don’t know can really hurt you. And that prospect is multiplied when you consider the only three ways anybody has yet proposed dealing with all this wastewater. While recycling it for any use is hampered by the lack of information about the contents, at least in that situation consumers might know where the wastewater had been. Yet the industry also makes it a practice to dump wastewater into pits or inject it into deep wells. In both cases, nobody knows how securely these practices contain the wastewater, how much of it finds its way into the aquifers or nearby wells. Unknown chemicals of unknown toxicity might be making their way in unknown quantities into your water supply and you would not know about it.

No wonder the industry likes to keep secrets.

New Yorkers need not worry just yet. The state has banned fracking, the hypocrisy of protecting the New York City watershed but not all others is a political issue, and the courts have said that localities have the power to prohibit drilling even if the state maintains the power to regulate the practice where it is allowed.
That should be enough to keep fracking a dead issue in New York, but as any zombie loving, vampire hugging fan knows very well, the dead do not always stay dead.
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Students, Environmental Groups Protest Fracking

Local grassroots climate justice organization, 350 Santa Barbara, hosted a demonstration and press conference at Santa Barbara County Courthouse Thursday to protest against hydraulic fracturing and other “extreme” forms of oil extraction in response to the Refugio State Beach oil spill on Tuesday.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting liquid at high pressures into underground fissures to obtain oil or gas. The protest called for Gov. Jerry Brown to stop onshore and offshore fracking in Santa Barbara. First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider were among several speakers at the protest.

Santa Barbara County organizer of Food & Water Watch, co-founder of 350 Santa Barbara and organizer of the protest, Rebecca Claassen said she hopes to pressure Brown into implementing a moratorium on fracking in Santa Barbara and gradually decrease local dependence on oil. Food & Water Watch is a Washington D.C.-based group advocating for consumer rights related to food, water and fishing.

“We need Governor Brown to enact an emergency moratorium on onshore fracking,” Claassen said. “Fracking and extreme extraction represent an expansion of oil and gas development in California, when we should be phasing it out.”

According to Environmental Defense Center Chief Counsel Linda Krop, oil drilling and usage can lead to harmful environmental effects despite extensive precautions and technological advancements in oil drilling and transport across the industry, a problem that she said is evidenced by the May 19 oil spill at Refugio State Beach.

“This tragedy reminds us that oil development is inherently dangerous and risky, there is no way to prevent a spill like this from happening,” Krop said. “This spill happened from a relatively new pipeline with modern technology, regulated under current laws and, yet, look what happened.”

UCSB alumna and 350 Santa Barbara member Susan Braden said, in addition to tarnishing the beach, the Refugio oil spill will damage marine life and contaminate locally caught seafood. According to Braden, the spill is a “slow moving kind of disaster” that will continue to affect Santa Barbara for years to come.

“It isn’t just beauty … that oil will find its way into our food chain and the fish that we eat that are caught locally,” Braden said. “The ramifications for this are going to go on for years and years.”

Santa Barbara Sierra Club Chair Katie Davis said oil companies are planning to expand local drilling. The Santa Barbara Sierra Club is a group aiming to protect the environment and promote the use of renewable energy sources along the county coastline.

“There’s a proposal to expand drilling right off of Isla Vista onshore … they want to parallel drill horizontally along the whole Isla Vista coastline,” Davis said. “UCSB was just named the greenest public university of the country, it’s not right that they would expand drilling there and connect to that pipe that just burst.”

Carbajal said the oil spill is both economically and environmentally harmful, and Santa Barbara should shift away from fossil fuels and towards more sustainable forms of energy.

“Not only is this a major disaster for our environment, but it’s a major disaster for our global economy,” Carbajal said. “This is a wakeup call for our community to really start moving more aggressively toward renewable energy sources.”

Schneider said the county requires an energy solution that will continue to provide jobs to those currently in the oil industry.

“We need to figure a way to get away from fossil fuels and … to do it in a way that allows people who are currently in the industry to be able to have jobs and to be able to move forward in a way that’s economically sustainable for them,” Schneider said.

World Business Academy Executive Director Matt Renner said businesses and environmental groups should work together to determine an energy source that is beneficial to both parties. The World Business Academy is a non-profit organization working to encourage businesses to assume social and environmental responsibilities.

“This cannot be a business versus environmental issue anymore,” Renner said. “Responsible business doesn’t pollute the ocean. Responsible business builds the infrastructure that we’re going to need to come into alignment with the earth and with the planet.”

Chumash Elder Marcus Lopez said indigenous communities globally have advocated for expanded environmental conservation efforts for decades and will continue to do so. The Chumash people are Native Americans who have resided in Santa Barbara for millennia.

“Indigenous populations throughout the world have been crying out for the last 50 or more years about how we have to … respect our mother earth, how we have to realize our relationship with one-[another],” Lopez said. “Let’s roll up our sleeves, men and women, children of all ages, and go in this direction with a vision of the future.”

Fourth-year UCSB sociology major Paige Craine said she is in favor of halting fracking despite its profit potential. According to Craine, the youth population has the ability to make a difference through protests and similar events.

“I think [a moratorium] is a good first step, I think the best thing is to ban [fracking] altogether but I know that that’s hard especially because people make money off of it,” Craine said. “I think the younger generations like us being here today is really important because it is our future and if we say we want them gone, hopefully they’ll listen.”

Anti-fracking protesters rally at US Embassy

AROUND 20 members of the "Stop Fracking Thailand Network" rallied outside the US Embassy in Bangkok yesterday to protest against chemical fracking in <Thailand>.

Two network representatives, Rangsit University professor Dr Smith Tungkasmit and Pipat Samanchuen, were allowed to enter the premises to hand a letter to Eric Frater, first secretary of the economic section of the embassy.

The letter demanded that US authorities encourage an investigation into companies Apico (Khorat), Apico LLC, Hess Corporation, Chevron and CEC and stop them using the chemical hydraulic fracturing system.

The Oscar-nominated film about an oil boom told through unexpected eyes

The Academy Awards were last Sunday, and one of the films nominated was a documentary short about the oil boom in North Dakota as seen through the eyes of three children and an immigrant mother. I interviewed the director J. Christian Jensen about ‘White Earth’ and what it might mean for other communities impacted by the fossil fuel industry.

California Zen Leaders Urge Gov. Brown to Ban Fracking


The leadership of the San Francisco Zen Center, the largest Sōtō Zen center in the West, just released a letter calling on California Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking. The letter comes just days before the massive March for Real Climate Leadership on February 7, an anti-fracking protest in Oakland, CA that is expected to draw thousands of people.

“We write to urge you to ban hydraulic fracturing—fracking– in California and, more generally, move away from making our state a major producer as well as a consumer of fossil fuels,” write the abbesses and much of the leading membership of the center. “What happens here matters everywhere.”

The signatories include the central abbesses of Zen center, as well as many of its members, including well-known figures such as actor Peter Coyote.

The letter will hopefully have a big impact on Governor Brown, who lived in Japan for a number of years studying zen meditation and has attended the Tassajara branch of the San Francisco Zen Center numerous times. In speeches, the Governor has been known to quote the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, Suzuki Roshi.

Statement from Americans Against Fracking Science Advisor Sandra Steingraber in Response to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Regulations on Fracking

“The revised fracking rules released by IDNR are little more than an attempt to put filters on cigarettes. These regulations cannot fix the chronic problems from well casing failures, to which the industry itself admits, or solve the problem of toxic air pollution or the high fatality rates for workers. They betray their mandate to protect the health and environment of Illinois residents. Over 30,000 Illinoisans submitted comments condemning the abysmally weak fracking rules released by IDNR last winter. Today’s revisions fly in the face of more than 100 scientific studies that have been published in the last two years and that point to the intractable problems of fracking. Governor Quinn should fulfill his commitment to protect Illinoisans, approve no fracking permits, and work with communities across the state to keep fracking out of Illinois for the protection of the state’s water, air, public health, and future generations.”

Contact: Olamide Noah,, 310-701-8476