An End to Fracked Gas by Matt Remle

Newly proposed City of Seattle legislation would ban the installation of natural gas (fracked gas) piping systems in any new and residential buildings

Seattle, WA - On September 6th, 2019 the Seattle Green New Deal advisory committee rolled out plans in the Sustainability & Transportation Committee to end natural gas hook ups for all residential and commercial buildings.

The proposed legislation follows in the wake of Seattle City Council’s passage of a Green New Deal resolution, which calls for Seattle to be green house gas emissions free by 2030.

The Healthy Homes, Healthy Buildings legislation seeks to address one of Seattle’s major sources of green house emissions, methane, which comes from burning natural gas. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Recent science has shown that methane, when released into the atmosphere, is 86 to 105 times as powerful as carbon dioxide at disrupting the climate over a 20-year period.”

The legislation sponsor, council-member Mike O’Brien, released the following statement, “The 2016 Seattle Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory found that emissions from the direct combustion of natural gas in residential and commercial buildings accounted for over 71% of citywide building greenhouse gas emissions and 25% of Seattle’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This inventory found that the City is not on track in per-year carbon emission reduction to meet the City’s 2030 emissions reduction goals.

Seattle’s natural gas supplier, Puget Sound Energy, purchases their natural gas from British Columbia, Alberta and the Rocky Mountain states.

Natural gas extraction in British Columbia, Alberta and the Rocky Mountain states comes by way of hydraulic fracking. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock.

In Canada, more than 200,000 wells, primarily in the Western States of British Columbia and Alberta have been fracked.

Fracking impacts on water

According to data compiled on Gasland, fracking not only uses extensive amounts of fresh water, but pumps millions of gallons of toxic mixtures into local aquifers.

“Fracking fluid is a toxic brew that consists of multiple chemicals. Industry can pick from a menu of up to 600 different kinds. Typically, 5 to 10 chemicals are used in a single frack job, but a well can be fracked multiple times, and each gas play consists of tens to hundreds of thousands of wells - driving up the number of chemicals ultimately used. Many fracking chemicals are protected from disclosure under trade secret exemptions. Studies of fracking waste have identified formaldehyde, acetic acids, and boric acids, among hundreds of others.

For each frack, 80-300 tons of chemicals may be used, selected from a menu of up to 600 *different* chemicals. Though the composition of most fracking chemicals remains protected from disclosure through various "trade secret" exemptions under state or federal law, scientists analyzing fracked fluid have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene - all of which pose significant dangers to human health and welfare.

Industry experts say it's misleading to suggest 600+ chemicals are used in a fracking operation since only a small percentage of this number of chemicals is used per well. But this "one-well" model is the biggest misrepresentation of all: fracking operations in a gas play typically consist of thousands of wells. Cumulative impacts are what matter… Generally, 2-8 million gallons of water may be used to frack a well. Some wells consume much more. A well may be fracked multiple times, with each frack increasing the chances of chemical leakage into the soil and local water sources.”

Impacts on 1st Nations and MMIW

It is not shocking to learn that the vast majority of fracking sites in Canada are taking place on, or near, 1st Nations communities. The Treaty 8 First Nations communities located in northeastern British Columbia have been particularly hit hard by the fracking industry and are experiencing the brunt of polluted communities, negative impacts on subsistence hunting and fishing, and with missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Man-camps, temporary housing for workers whom often come from around the world, are set up at extraction sites and are a direct link to high rates of sexual violence against experienced by 1st Nations women and girls.

According to the recent National Inquiry done on MMIWG, they find that, “Work camps, or ‘man camps,’ associated with the resource extraction industry are implicated in higher rates of violence against Indigenous women at the camps and in the neighbouring communities.”

An end to fracked gas

Seattle’s Healthy Homes, Healthy Buildings legislation is about putting teeth to the Green New Deal by putting forth concrete solutions to reducing our contributions to the climate crisis. Additionally, addressing issues like MMIWG means taking real action against areas known to foster environments where exploitation of Native women and girls is taking place. Where ever there is exploitation of Unci Maka, grandmother earth, exploitation of women follows. Ending fracked gas as an energy source for Seattle means not only are we addressing eliminating a major green house gas, methane, but also putting companies on notice that we demand our energy not only be 100% re-newable, but also not tied to the mass exploitation of Maka earth, Mni water and 1st Nations women and girls.“ Matt Remle (Lakota) Seattle Green New Deal advisory committee.

Seattle’s Healthy Homes, Healthy Buildings legislation will be heard in committee in mid-September.

Matt Remle Mazaska Talks, Nancy Huizer Got Green, Councilmember Mike O’Brien, and Brittany Bush Bolley Sierra Club Seattle Chapter introduce the Healthy Homes, Healthy Buildings legislation at the Sustainability & Transportation Committee