Tag Archives: Natural gas

We Won’t Get Fooled Again: How Unfair Trade Threatens Texas’ Environment

Why should any Texas enviro care about trade? Let me tell you a bit about what the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is, and why you should be concerned as a boot-wearing Southern green activist.

Today through May 18th in Dallas, as negotiators representing nations and corporations from across the world meet behind closed doors for the 12th round of talks on the TPP, a coalition of union members, environmentalists, occupiers, and consumer advocates will be there to shine a light on the backroom deal.

The TPP is a massive, new international trade and investment pact between the United States and countries throughout the Pacific Rim like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Peru, Australia, and eventually Japan.  Instead of being debated out in the open, the TPP has thus far been negotiated in the shadows. Approximately 600 corporate lobbyists have been given special “cleared advisor” status to review negotiating documents and advise negotiators.  Meanwhile, the general public has been barred from even reviewing what U.S. negotiators have proposed in our names.

So how does this tie into the Texas environmental community? Texas is home to the Barnett and Eagle Ford shales – some of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. Countries participating in TPP negotiations rely heavily on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), and stand to benefit from provisions in TPP that would open the floodgates for expanded US production and exports of LNG.  In a recent  letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the Sierra Club’s natural gas and labor & trade departments urged Kirk to ensure that the TPP does not allow for export of substantially increased quantities of domestic liquefied natural gas (LNG) without proper analysis and adequate protections for the American public.

Furthermore, we are concerned about language in previous FTAs that lets foreign corporations sue governments directly — in private and non-transparent tribunals — for unlimited cash compensation over almost any domestic law (environmental or otherwise) that the corporation argues might hurt its profitability.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune discussed this issue in a recent blog post citing:

“By the end of 2011, corporations (including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and Cargill) had brought 450 disputes worth hundreds of millions of dollars against the governments of 89 countries. Many of those cases directly targeted environmental and other public interest laws.”

If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, come rally and march with us in order to let negotiators know that Texans want fair trade that protects both our environment and workers, and that we won’t get fooled again by bad trade deals.

TPP Out of the Shadows!

Rally and March for Good Jobs, Affordable Medicine & a Healthy Environment

Saturday, May 12 * 1:00pm

Addison Circle Park * 15650 Addison Rd * Addison, TX


Click here to reserve your free seat on a bus from San Antonio or Austin

Dave Cortez
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
512-477-6195 (office)

David (dot) Cortez (at) SierraClub (dot) org


Water Under Fire

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in his Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, water, every where / nor any drop to drink”. The speaker of the poem, the ancient mariner, is of course talking about a lack of fresh water while out at sea but these words ring eerily true in my mind when learning about the state of our water in the United States. Our great enemy isn’t an undead sea dog like Coleridge imagined but rather man-made pollution.

Water, of course, is the stuff of both evolution and revolution.


Life on this planet, or any planet as far as we know, is not possible without the presence of water. Our search for extraterrestrial life doesn’t begin by analyzing random static in space radio waves but with the exhaustive search for water through careful scientific analysis of the surface of planets and other sizable objects in space (asteroids and moons). Water is universally the great prerequisite of life.


Water is a natural resource that is often barely a blip on our radar of consciousness. We too often seem to take it for granted because it is plentiful and because it is so mundane. However, when the natural world as we know it is turned upside down, people take notice.

We know that water is for putting out fires from the earliest age. A child will put on the iconic firefighter hat and pretend to put out fires. We have our oddly named fire trucks (they’re actually water trucks) and fire hydrants (they’re actually water hydrants) and they are tools used by firefighters (aptly named) to make use of water in putting out fires. But what happens when the resource we use to fight fires is itself able to catch fire?

In 1969 the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio caught fire and surprisingly, it wasn’t the first time. Due to a build up of oil, urban runoff, and industrial dumping, the Cuyahoga River was able to ignite. Records of the river bursting into flame go back as early as 1868 and it is said to have happened at least thirteen times.

What’s important about the 1969 Cuyahoga River Fire is that the image of one of our nation’s rivers billowing great plumes of smoke into the sky helped to rally the environmental movement in theUnited Stateswhich in turn led to some of the most important environmental legislation and safeguards in our nation’s history. The Clean Water Act was signed within a year of the Cuyahoga River Fire and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency soon followed. The people wanted to protect our nation’s waters and it took a river to catch fire to help raise public awareness.

If you have seen the 2010 documentary Gasland then you know that we are faced a second time with that most surprising of events: flammable water. Gasland documents water pollution across theUnited States as a result of the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, which is a method employed to harvest natural gas from underground shale reserves.

Many of the residents that live in the vicinity of fracked wells report water contamination by natural gas as well as the cocktail of chemicals used in the digging of the well to tap the resource. Some residents break non-disclosure agreements (they are paid for their silence) with the natural gas companies after they settle out of court for damages caused by fracking. Many of the affected people are forced to rely on water that they truck in or on cisterns provided for them by the natural gas companies as a replacement for their now tainted water supplies.

The most shocking aspect of Gasland isn’t that the natural gas companies ruined the water supplies of several communities. As a result of the contamination, several of the residents are able to ignite the water that comes from the taps in their homes.

It is my opinion that Gasland will be to the contemporary public consciousness of environmentalism what theCuyahogaRiver Fire was to the environmental movement of the 60’s and 70’s. Water catching fire is fundamentally backwards and hard to fathom.

If you live in South Texas, you should be aware that, like the places visited in Gasland,South Texas has a large deposit of natural gas called the Eagle Ford Shale Formation. Fracking companies are already hard at work in the surrounding communities doing exploration and digging wells to frack for the plentiful natural gas that is in the ground under our feet. Educate yourself about hydraulic fracturing and take part to support tight regulation of this industry that can harm our communities’ precious drinking water. We rely on it not just for tap water but for the vast agricultural industry that isTexas’ heritage.

For more information visit the Natural Gas portion of the Sierra Club website at http://www.sierraclub.org/naturalgas/ and watch Gasland, available now on DVD.

– Nathaniel Lang, Beyond Coal Intern for the Alamo Group.

What the Frack?: Hydraulic Fracturing 101

Remember reading about the new fracking disclosure bill that was signed or have heard about it, but don’t quite understand what fracking is? Here is a quick and easy visual explanation of the fracking process and how it affects us and our environment.

Fracking is another name for hydraulic fracturing, which is the process of extracting natural gas from the ground. What’s so bad about that? Natural gas is green, right? Well, yes and no. While natural gas may burn slightly cleaner than coal, the extraction process is just as, if not more, harmful to human and environmental health as the extraction and burning of coal.

Why is natural gas extraction so harmful, you ask? Does your tap water do this?

The flaming water is a result of gases and fracking fluids seeping into the water shelf during the process of extracting the natural gas from underground, effectively making its way into the local water systems.

So how does the gas get into the water? Good question.

Source: checksandbalancesproject.org

Beside water being flammable, there are multiple health effects caused by the gases chemicals from the fracking fluids. Theses chemicals and gases are causing  ADHD, autism, diabetes, obesity, early testicular cancer, endometriosis, to name a few.

So, how does this new legislation forcing the gas companies to disclose chemicals contained in the fracking fluids have in impact? For years now, these companies have been able to deny that there are any chemicals that would be harmful to those living in close proximity to the drilling sites. Now that these chemicals are to be exposed, it will be much harder to deny that all of the aforementioned health issues were not a direct result of their extraction practices.

For more in-depth and explicit information about the impact of fracking:

-Jessica Olson, Sierra Club Beyond Coal/ Communications Intern

Texas Legislators Consider Gas Fracking Disclosure

Natural Gas Fracking Bill Set for Debate in Texas State House Today

 (Austin) The Texas House of Representatives is set to consider a major bill today on the House Floor which, for the first time, would require operators of natural gas wells in Texas to disclose the chemicals, hydro-fracking fluids and additives they use when “fracking” a gas well. House Bill 3328 by State Representative Jim Keffer – a Republican from Eastland whose district near Fort Worth has experienced heavy Barnett Shale gas drilling activity — would be a major change in regulation of the oil and gas industry in Texas.  Texas would become one of a handful of states now requiring that companies disclose what they are injecting underground, and make that information available on a public website, on a well-by-well basis.

The bill could include an amendment promoted by the Texas Oil and Gas Association that would limit full disclosure of all chemicals by only requiring full disclosure on a publicly-available website of “MSDS” chemicals – those regulated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – and not all chemicals. Instead, the “other chemicals” will be on a separate list given to the state agency as part of their well completion reports, and those chemicals will not include the actual volume or concentration.

“Under a proposal being advocated by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas would have an “MSDS plus” system, certainly better than nothing, but a bill that is far short of the much stronger bill originally introduced by Rep. Keffer,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We hope the House and Senate will consider strengthening the bill to make it a true model bill for the nation.”

Among the changes Sierra Club is seeking in order to fully support the bill are:

  • Full well-by-well website disclosure of all chemicals, including those regulated by OSHA and those not regulated by OSHA;
  • A more inclusive list of who can actually challenge any chemicals claimed as trade secrets, including those landowners living within a mile of any well shaft;
  • A process for the agency to determine if any trade secret claims are meritorious and not give a blanket protection to trade secrets claimed by the industry.

“Even as gas companies continue to drill the Barnett Shale in North Texas, new shale finds like the Eagle Ford in South Texas are being developed at a breakneck speed, without any disclosure of the chemicals being injected underground.  The injected fracking fluids are impacting the water and land of thousands of individuals in Texas,” Reed noted further.

“What happens in Texas is important because Texas is the leading gas producer in the country and the state where hydro-fracking technology got its start,” said Deb Nardone with Sierra Club’s Natural Gas Campaign.  “Getting disclosure regulations right in Texas could help bolster disclosure in other states.  Weaker disclosure in Texas would provide dangerous traction for the industry to seek limited disclosure in other states.”       #   #   #

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Teleconference with Gasland’s Josh Fox

Dear Texas:

As natural gas production grows across the country, we are increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts and lack of safeguards to protect human health and our communities. The movie “Gasland”, which depicts what life is like in gas communities across the country, has generated a movement.

Please join us for an hour-long teleconference with Academy Award nominated filmmaker Josh Fox to discuss the movie and how gas activists across the country are organizing for change.

Event Details

WHO: You, your family and friends

Discuss the Academy Award nominated documentary, Gasland, with filmmaker Josh Fox

Wednesday, April 13th. Please note your time zone: 5-6 pm PT / 6-7 pm MT / 7-8 pm CT / 8-9 pm ET

RSVP by April 12: http://action.sierraclub.org/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=151861&autologin=true&211CNGEN01

This event has been organized on behalf of the Sierra Club’s Hydrofracking Activist Network, a resource with information and a forum for discussing natural gas issues across the country.

Thank you,

Deborah Nardone
Natural Gas Reform Campaign
Sierra Club

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Did you see Sierra Club’s Executive Director on 60 Minutes last night?

Here’s your chance!  Mr. Michael Brune discusses the need for strong regulation of natural gas fracking.

Fracking: It even sounds bad!  Let’s just hurry up and get on some good ol’ solar and wind energy, yes?  YES!


University of North Texas Students Ready to get Campus off Coal

The Sierra Student Coalition at University of North Texas in Dallas are  leading the way off coal. The campus online news source NT Daily reports —

UNT made a pledge to reduce its carbon emissions to zero, yet it continues to source more than half of its electricity from fossil fuels, specifically natural gas and coal, according to a Sierra Student Coalition campus news release.

Forty percent of the energy used on campus is renewable energy while 60 percent of it used is divided between natural gas and coal, said Matt Bruner, an international freshman and media coordinator for the campaign.

“We call ourselves the Mean Green but here we are… using coal power,” Bruner said. “It’s not the right angle to take… Nothing’s going to change unless students go out there.”

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