skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Frances Beinecke’s Blog

Demanding CLEAN Power

Frances Beinecke

Posted November 9, 2013

, , , , , , , , , , ,
Share | | |

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 1 in 20 Americans live within a mile of a fracking site. That means more people than ever before have drill pads, toxic wastewater pits, and heavy truck traffic coming into their backyards and communities. These industrial operations make difficult neighbors, and people are pushing back. On Election Day, voters in Fort Collins and two other Colorado cities passed measures against fracking.

There are safer, cleaner ways to power our communities. We can protect our health and curb climate change by moving beyond fossil fuels. The U.S. has the resources and ingenuity to reach 100 percent clean energy, and NRDC is committed to reaching that goal as soon as possible.


The most abundant energy supply we have is efficiency—the art of doing more using less. NRDC has made efficiency the centerpiece of our energy strategy for four decades, and the focus has paid off. Efficiency contributed more to meeting growing energy needs in the last 40 years than oil, gas, and nuclear combined. NRDC also works to expand renewable power, and we are making great progress. Over the past four years or so new wind projects accounted for 35 percent of all new power generation capacity built in the U.S. and 120,000 Americans have jobs in the solar industry.

The clean energy future is getting closer. As we work to get there, NRDC also fights to protect people from reckless fossil fuel development—including the fracking operations running roughshod over our communities.

Everywhere I travel, people share their frustration and anxiety about unfettered fracking. From Pennsylvania to California, North Carolina to Colorado, residents wonder what fracking could do to their air and water, farms and ranches. They worry about their communities turning into industrial waste zones. And they fear for their health and the health of their children.

Yet they feel they have nowhere to turn for help. State and federal standards are weak and enforcement is grossly inadequate. Homeowners live with towering drill rigs and toxic waste impoundments in their backyards. When the air starts to smell of noxious chemicals or the impoundment leaks or the vibration from compressors begins to shake their houses, people have little recourse. Many communities have been abandoned by those charged with holding companies accountable and protecting residents from harm. It’s an outrage, and it must stop.

NRDC is at the forefront of the battle to keep people safe from the perils of fracking. Where possible, we support moratoria so that the risks can be more fully evaluated before decisions about moving forward with fracking are made. We fought for—and helped win—a moratorium on fracking in New York State, and we have advocated for moratoria in Illinois and California. We also fight to protect people who already have frack pads in their yards, who already worry about water contamination, who already lost control of their property because a gas company owned the mineral rights.

People living on the frontlines of fracking need assistance now; they can’t wait until we achieve the clean energy future. That’s why NRDC fights for tough safeguards to rein in polluters, and we created the Community Fracking Defense Project to help give towns and local governments the tools they need to protect themselves from fracking when their state and federal governments have not.

Our work defending communities from the ravages of fracking is critical, but we never lose sight of our ultimate goal: moving America beyond all fossil fuels as rapidly as possible. This is the path that will lead to cleaner air and water, better health, a more stable climate, and sustainable prosperity for future generations.


Share | | |


Roger MayNov 10 2013 09:02 AM

I find it curious that you point to the Colorado municipalities that voted to extend fracking moritoriums with no mention that those municipalities have no skin in the game. Fort Collins leads the list with a half dozen producing wells. Lafayette and Boulder have seen no new well permits since 1999. Hardly an activists coat hanger, I'ld say.

Gerald QuindryNov 11 2013 10:05 AM

I've read the WSJ piece, and it doesn't say what you claim, and their analysis is faulty -- points I will expand later. But let's take your interpretation as-it-stands for the moment.
The claim is that roughly 15 million Americans live within a mile of a fracking site. Why, then are we not awash in contaminated water supplies that are documented, with hordes of people gasping for clean air caused by the pollution directly caused by those developments? I readily concede that there are occasional problems, impacts to residents in unusual situations, and really dumb moves on the part of a few drillers. But do these rise to the status of common events? I think not. I also concede that regional development of oil or gas fields can change a rural area from a bucolic paradise to one with a more industrial, high traffic nature. I would argue, however that that is an unavoidable cost of trying to support 9-billion people on a planet with a sustainable carrying capacity that is much lower. Factory farms, heavy industry, and growing urbanization are a result of that pressure.

Now to the WSJ: Their methodology was limited to the granularity of a census tract. Each census tract can be many square miles, and if any point within the tract was deemed to be within a mile of a well, then ALL of the population in the tract is counted as being within a mile of a well. Thus, the counting exaggerates the number of people with a mile. When you say that 1 in 20 Americans live within a mile of a fracking site, you make the same "all-in" assumption.
Second, NRDC has correctly pointed out on several occasions that hydraulic fracturing is not regulated in many locations. So how could the WSJ know which wells were completed with hydraulic fracturing and which were not?
Finally, in some areas, hydraulic fracturing is common. The Marcellus Shale in semi-rural areas of Pennsylvania is one such field. In other oil and gas fields it is NOT common. In particular, few wells in the Southern California oilfields use the technique. (There have been a few test wells.) Since the highly-concentrated population in the LA Basin would factor very high in any calculation of people near wells, the assumption that those Southern California residents should be counted as near a fracked well is incorrect.

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Frances Beinecke’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In