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U.S. Grassroots Effort to Ban Fracking Ramps Up

September 14th, 2011

Environmental Justice and Health Groups Solicit the UN to Recognize Fracking as a Human Rights Issue; Over 5,000 Calls Made to the White House from Citizens Concerned About Fracking

Contamination from fracking in many areas sets water faucets on fire. Source: The film, "Gasland"

Concern about the  impacts of hydrofracking for natural gas on the integrity of water supplies in affected areas has been strong for some time. Last year, the New York City Council voting unanimously to block fracking in the New York City watershed. Faith-based investors have been raising concerns at the corporate level about the pollution of local water supplies by this method now commonly used in natural gas drilling. But there has not been a national outcry at the grassroots level – until now.

Yesterday,  over 5,000 Americans from all 50 states flooded White House phone lines yesterday to tell President Obama to ban the polluting, dangerous practice. Spearheaded by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, United for Action, and Center for Health, Environment and Justice, nearly 50 organizations across the country and individuals in every state called on Obama to ban fracking.

“President Obama has got an energy problem on his hands,” says Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Citizens, many of whom helped to get him elected, are becoming increasingly worried about fracking and other dirty energy schemes the administration is assessing, like the Keystone XL pipeline. Our water resources should not be sacrificed for energy, and he’s hearing this in no uncertain terms from people all over the country.”

The calls to the White House come in the lead up to next month’s critical vote by the Delaware River Basin Commission on whether or not to open up the watershed to fracking. President Obama has one of five votes on the Commission, along with the Governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Delaware River is the drinking water source for 15.6 million people in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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Food & Water Watch is also bringing fracking to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, where UN observers are weighing in on Catarina De Albuquerque’s report on the human right to water and sanitation. In her U.S. assessment, De Albuquerque, the special rapporteur for the human right to water and sanitation, reported on water contamination found in the U.S. from fracking and recommended “a holistic consideration of the right to water by factoring it into policies having an impact on water quality, ranging from agriculture to chemical use in products to energy production activities.”

“Now that the human right to water is legally binding and has been officially recognized by the UN General Assembly, and De Albuquerque has determined that fracking could further imperil the human right to water in the U.S., we believe that the U.S. should stand behind its commitment to safeguarding this precious right to water and ban fracking,” said Darcey O’Callaghan, International Policy Director at Food & Water Watch.

According to Food & Water Watch’s recent joint letter with UNANIMA International to the UN Human Rights Commission, fracking isn’t only a problem in the U.S. The oil and gas industry has its sights set on fracking in Europe, with the U.S. energy information administration forecasting 187 trillion cubic feet of gas resources available in Poland, followed closely by France at 180 trillion cubic feet. France, however, following strong civil society protests, currently has a moratorium against fracking.

“Poland is the Marcellus Shale of Europe,” said Gabriella Zanzanaini, Director of European Affairs for Food & Water Europe, the European program of Food & Water Watch. “Energy security is a real concern for Poland, given its current reliance on Russia, but the government and citizens should also be aware that fracking can cause explosions, well contamination and public health effects that could be devastating to rural communities, as communities in the U.S. have experienced.”

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