Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If fracking is so great, why are so many people against it?

In previous posts specifically about Torchlight Energy's plan to frack on the Diablo Plateau/Otero Mesa ecosystem, I've discussed the fragile desert environment along with its diversity of flora and fauna. There's another concern: the health, safety and welfare of people. 

Torchlight Energy will poison a valuable aquifer with its cauldron of carcinogen chemicals used in fracking - an aquifer now valuable to farmers and ranchers but one day may be to El Pasoans. It is this baneful brew of benzene and other compounds, including methane, that has so many communities from Pennsylvania to California calling for a ban on fracking in their backyards.

It's not just that fracking companies like Torchlight Energy can continue to keep their lengthy list of fracking chemicals a secret while asserting that their "recycled" water and drilling do no harm. Scientists now know how to determine if water contamination comes from fracking. They now see fracker's fingerprints all over contaminated water. Green groups for a long time have said that agencies such as the EPA have underestimated the amount of methane leaked into the water supply.

The result is that city's are rising up and banning fracking. Last year Dallas did so. (Bet this is the first time that you have heard that.) Now with Frack Free Denton and Denton Drilling Awareness Group leading the way Denton is on the verge of saying NO to fracking in next Tuesday's election.

Of course, both Dallas and Denton are banning fracking within their own city limits. The Diablo Plateau is not only outside of El Paso but it is in a different county as well. However, if fracking there would immediately compromise our water and people would be igniting water coming out of their taps, there would be an outcry especially if many people develop skin blisters as is happening in other active fracking areas around the country. (Read the list of harms caused by fracking in Pennsylvania and New York as examples.) Our problem is more long term - the aquifer but could be short term with the added air pollution. (The wind blows from east to west you know during certain times of the year and much of the batch of benzene and other skull and crossbones chemicals that will spill on the desert ground will be blown our way.) It is hard to convince the country club bunch that an ecosystem is worth preserving. It is a bit easier to talk about the health and safety of folks even if they must think long term or believe the results of air monitoring - independent since we really can't depend on the TCEQ.

So what can we do? El Paso City and County might be able to place fees on companies which sell materials or provide labor or equipment to Torchlight or other frackers. I'm sure Torchlight will have to buy sand from El Paso and may have to lease other equipment from here. Put an onerous fee on those products and those services. Of course, some will say that Torchlight will go elsewhere and El Paso will lose the business. However, the cost of transporting sand and other products from too far will be huge. 

El Pasoans can also boycott companies that support Torchlight as well as sell to the public. 

I'm thinking out loud but that is what we must begin to do if there is any chance of deterring Torchlight or any other company from fracking just over the hill from our city and our county on privately owned land.

It's worth the effort.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Learn about, eat and buy Cacti this Saturday

Click on image to enlarge.

This is one of my favorite events of the year - especially Jim Hasting's (the Gringo Gourmet) cooking with cactus as well as the cactus and succulent sale:

El Paso City Council decreed November as "Cactus Appreciation Month".  The El Paso Cactus and Rock Club is hosting a program open to the public to kick off the celebration on Saturday, Nov. 1 from 9:30 AM to 2 PM. Informative briefings, a cooking with cactus demonstration, literature, and CDs are offered at no charge to attendees. Native and exotic cacti and other succulents can be purchased.  The program will be at the El Paso Garden Center, 3105 Grant St., located in Memorial Park. MAP Light refreshments will be available.  Admission is free. There is parking available behind the building.  For more information: Virginia Morris, elpasovlm48@yahoo.com or 915-833-7637.

9 AM           DVD presentation on Cacti and Other Succulents.
10 AM What is a Cactus?
11 AM Cooking with Cacti Demonstration
12 PM Succulents: Around the World to Your Backyard
1 PM            Propagation & Care of Cacti in Your Landscape
9 AM to 2 PM Sale of Native & Exotic Cacti and Succulents

See also:
El Paso Cactus & Rock Club
The Gringo Gourmet

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Friday Video: Fracking Threatens Chaco's Sacred American Heritage

Nothing is sacred to frackers but money, money, money. 

The video above was taken from Fracking threatens the Chaco Canyon World Heritage Site published by Earthworks.

See also:

Wells creep toward Chaco (Durango Herald)

Don't frack Chaco Canyon (Environment New Mexico)

And, although a minor victory was achieved for this land, far more needs to be done. "To be sure, we still have work to do. The Greater Chaco Landscape is still in need of full protection and the rush to frack in the American West remains the most significant threat to the land, wildlife, our water and our clean air." - Jeremy Nichols, Wild Earth Guardians.

For closer to home:

What the frack? (Sul Ross student publication, Skyline. See p. 4 of pdf.)

And, much, much closer to home:

Drew Stuart, editor of the Hudspeth County Herald told me: "The Diablo Plateau and Otero Mesa are a continuous grassland ecosystem - so that many of the observations that conservation groups have made about the Otero Mesa would apply to the Diablo Plateau as well." Read all about this grassland and its rich biodiversity. Enlarge the pic at this post. See what the Texas side of this continuous grassland ecosystem will look like once Torchlight Energy is done.

By the way, other national historic parks are threatened:

Map above from Is Nothing Sacred? Fracking and Chaco Culture National Historic Park a story by Char Miller for KCET Los Angeles.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Disposable Water Bottles: Throw away convenience with long term consequences

The slide show below was put together by Dr. Ann Branan Horak from the University of Texas at El Paso. She presented this at last Saturday's Ecology and Spirituality Workshop sponsored by El Paso and Southern New Mexico Interfaith Alliance and Celebration of Our Mountains. The event took place at the El Paso Columban Mission Center.

Still planning to buy plastic water bottles in bulk from Sam's Club or WalMart? Or just a single item from the 7-11? Want to ask your business, organization or governmental agency to stop using them?

Visit, Bookmark, Read

Here is an excellent, well-written and intelligent El Paso blog which you should visit, bookmark and read: elpasospeak.

Add it to your favorites.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"New Data Out Of Pennsylvania Links Drilling To Water Contamination"

Absolutely, positively read New Data Out Of Pennsylvania Links Drilling To Water Contamination by Sara Jerome at Water Online.

One More Reason to Support Our Public Service Board/El Paso Water Utilities

John Balliew receivng the AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award.
The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, an organization of the largest publicly-owned drinking water suppliers in the United States, honored our El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) with its Sustainable Water Utility Management Award. This is one more reason to keep the PSB/EPWU independent and not make it just one more department of the City of El Paso. 

By the way, be sure to read the October 20, 2014 post at Refuse the Juice. Quoting directly and emphasizing:

"The PSB is one of the few things in El Paso - government wise - that works."

And again:  

"Should El Paso be taking steps to protect it's most precious asset (water) and the preserver of that asset (PSB/EPWU)?"  

Here's the EPWU press release about the award:

El Paso Water Utilities Receives National Award
for Sustainable Water Management

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) honored El Paso Water Utilities with The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award at its 2014 Executive Management Conference on Monday in Newport Beach, Calif.
The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, presented for the first time this year, recognizes water utilities that have made a commitment to management that achieves a balance of innovative and successful efforts in areas of economic, social and environmental endeavors.
“AMWA awards recognize the serious commitment and significant progress these award-winning drinking water agencies are making toward long-term viability through innovative management practices, executive leadership and employee engagement,” said AMWA President Chuck M. Murray, General Manager of Fairfax Water. “Sustainable communities cannot exist without sustainable water systems, and these award winners are invaluable assets to their communities and their customers.”
El Paso Water Utilities, one of nine utilities to receive the national award, was recognized for its proactive water management strategy focused on policy, planning and technology. Sustainability for EPWU means protecting public health by producing clean, safe water from renewable resources while meeting daily standards.
“Our unique geographical location and climate requires us to be proactive,” states John Balliew, EPWU President/CEO. “We work hand-in-hand with our customers and stakeholders to aggressively implement our water resources management plan.”
EPWU was commended on receiving high marks in all areas, according to national benchmarking surveys conducted by AMWA. AMWA also took special note that El Paso’s average residential water bills are among the lowest in the Southwest, largely due to gains in operational efficiency and a commitment to continuous process improvement principles.