Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's Happening With Fracking?

The article below was written by Sr. Nora Nash, our director of corporate social responsibility, for our congregational newsletter. I thought you might be interested in her report and the photos she took. You might also like to read some of Sr. Nora's interview with Miranda Spencer on the human rights issue at

The State of Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing/shale gas development and numerous other words have become an everyday part of our vocabulary for the past three or four years as we continue to reflect and ascertain what this means for our health, our environment, and the future lives of our citizens.  This risky business has attracted attention across the globe and we know for sure that, even though there are state bans, rallies and protests, hydraulic fracturing for gas or oil is not going to go away anytime soon. To put it simply, the industry is powerful and their lobbyists have done a marvelous job convincing state and federal leaders that this will resolve our energy and unemployment problems. Even with improved regulations, it is quite evident that “trade secrets” are already a “red flag” and disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking is just not happening: We must also continue to remember that this is a fossil fuel and its wide use will prevent a more formidable transition to renewable energies in the near future.

Our major role at this time is to do everything possible to make sure that companies are monitored and required to meet key performance standards in every area. The Sisters of St. Francis have been actively involved in advocacy with several companies and have taken a leadership role in engagements with Anadarko and Chevron. We have continually challenged these and other companies to examine their human rights policies and begin to apply them in the communities where they have a license to operate. All energy companies need to become more transparent and disclose environmental and social risks such as well integrity, water issues, waste, use of toxic chemicals and reported health problems. This past year the Investor Environmental Health Network and  the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility developed an excellent document called “Extracting the Facts” A Guide to Disclosing Risks form Hydraulic Fracturing Operations.” You can access the document at

During this past two years we have had several successful dialogues with Anadarko Petroleum Company. I spent two days in the Tiadaghton Forest in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, to view every phase of their shale gas development. The fact that I had to wear a fire retardant suit and a hard hat was enough evidence for me that danger was possible and even more so when I stood at the top of a gas rig. I met with many members of the operating team and could verify that this particular company had already identified key performance strategies. They seemed to be taking every precaution to ensure the safety of the environment, especially the beautiful and pristine Pine Creek that runs many miles through the forest and is one of the largest creeks in the U.S. Anadarko draws millions of gallons of water from the Creek to do the fracking but has established a fresh water pond on top of the mountain to prevent trucks from damaging the roads. I spoke to the Lock Haven University community and their concerns were palpable. The recreational fishermen among them felt that the fish were dying. Faculty and students felt that many parts of the public forest were off limits. They were also concerned about the lack of real communication with the community and the fears of water contamination. The problem is further complicated by the fact that many smaller and less responsible companies are already drilling in the forest, damaging access roads, and contaminating the water.
 The beautiful scene in the Tiadaghton Forest overlooking Pine Creek offers a startling contrast to the warning signs at the entrance to the well and rig sight. (below)

Sr. Nora Nash, decked out in protective gear, prepares for a ride on the gas rig with Mr. X from the Canadian Precision Company.

This particular drilling site is almost complete and will eventually have eight wells.

As primary filer with Chevron, we have coordinated several engagements. We have had some productive dialogues over the past three years but we have also filed resolutions and gotten very good shareholders votes during that period. At the request of Chevron, we were privileged to host a first ever Chevron dialogue at our motherhouse on November 29, 2012. The dialogue allowed us to speak face-to-face with company representatives. We commended them for their human rights policy but let them know that it is only a document until it becomes operational and that has not happened. It is their responsibility to engage and inform communities where they operate on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. Chevron did admit that they need to do a better job at informing communities about steps to mitigate risk, and that they also need better data on air emissions and health risks. Progress is slow but we commended Chevron for reducing the number of toxic chemicals in their fracking fluid and encouraged them to work toward green fracking fluid—if that’s possible. Not being satisfied with the company progress, we filed another resolution and had over 25 cofilers. At the beginning of our dialogue, I noted that “the “Chevron Way” and Human Rights Policy speak to all the things that we both value but the best value comes when they are operational.”  We continue to wait! When you have some spare time, please review the 12 Core Management Practices for shale gas operations as found in the previously mentioned document, “Extracting the Facts.” 


Paula said...

Thanks for sharing this information. I saw another interesting article about fracking. Here is the link:

I found your blog via Buttercup Counts Her Blessings. Come by and visit me at Home In Douglas!

Maggid said...

In the last year, maybe a little longer, i have learned some uncomfortable truths. I have come to understand the word "complicit." Who knew? there are some who will consider evil valuable to them . . .

They receive some payoff - for allowing, or empowering a wrong.

All i can say about this is - we are here "For Such a Time As This" - It is easier to spot The Light - when it shines in the dark . . as it dispels the dark with Love and Understanding . . . Sister, I see you offer illumination constantly . . and i am grateful for you.
love & love,

Angela and Melinda said...

Many thanks to both you, Sister Ann Marie, and Sister Nora Nash. This is much appreciated. And yes, commentor Paula, I also saw that article about the patch of light in ND--obviously it turns out not to be so mysterious after all, given that it's in the middle of nowhere.


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