Friday, February 1, 2013

Letter and Petition to Sierra Club's Michael Brune to Lead a Nationwide Ban on Fracking


January 31, 2013

Mr. Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club
85 Second Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

Dear Michael:

The reason for our letter is to express our concerns about the hydraulic fracturing crisis in our country and in Colorado where we live, and the Club’s Oil and Gas Policy, as revised February 2012.

As you know, the impacts from hydraulic fracturing are both an environmental and a public health issue that crosses political lines, especially in communities that are being impacted from hydraulic fracturing operations. People from around the country are coming together to ask why their local, state, and federal governments are not helping to protect their communities from water contamination, air and noise pollution, public health issues, wildlife ecosystem destruction, and more. 

The most powerless feeling for families is that they are unable to protect their health and that of their children from what’s happening in their own backyards when the oil and gas industry conducts hydraulic fracturing operations. This violates two key civil rights issues – the rights to safety and the rights to protection under the Civil Rights Act.

In addition, families cannot even protect the homes they live in if an energy company wants to exercise its mineral rights by drilling under a families’ property due to the Split Estate Law in Colorado. This law also impacts families’ ability to protect the surface rights that they own with their homes. The question is: Who is protecting the property rights of innocent families?

We believe that the environmental and public health impacts from hydraulic fracturing are a crisis of historic proportions in our country, a crisis that undermines our environmental laws, and the entire philosophy upon which the Sierra Club was founded.

As a result, we are asking the Club to take a leadership role in calling for a nationwide ban on mining that uses hydraulic fracturing. 

Hydraulic fracturing is destroying our land, our air, our water, wildlife ecosystems, and public health. Additionally, it has a significant negative impact on the climate crisis. The following sample data and arguments supports our assertions:

Impacts on Water

We would like to discuss how hydraulic fracturing impacts our water quantity and quality:

In the National Wildlife Federation’s report from 2011 entitled: “No More Hydraulic Fracturing in the Dark: Exposing the Hazards of Natural Gas Production and Protecting America’s Drinking Water and Wildlife Habitat,” the following was reported under “Impacts on Water Quality and Supply:” ( fracturing.aspx)

“Each time that a well is hydraulically fractured, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water are required. As this procedure may be carried out many times, each well may therefore require several million gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing operations. This water normally must be withdrawn from nearby wells, lakes, rivers, or industrial or municipal water systems. Large-scale water withdrawals may result in reducing the flow of streams below levels acceptable for fish (such as brook trout) and other wildlife.”

Currently, hydraulic fracturing occurs in 34 states. Can we really afford for the oil and gas industry to have access to so much freshwater that should instead be protected for drinking water, ecosystem health, and growing our food? In the arid Intermountain West, many oil and gas companies are outbidding farmers for water. With the devastating drought that Colorado experienced last summer, and with predictions for continued drought due to the climate crisis, we really need to ask ourselves what the most beneficial use of our water really should be. We must also make it a priority to protect the health of our aquifers.

In Colorado, Initiatives 3 and 45 will be reintroduced in 2013, and were:

“Born out of the need to protect and provide for better access to Colorado’s water and preserve this precious resource now and into the future. The initiatives codifies the Public Trust Doctrine in Colorado’s Constitution and reaffirms the public’s ownership of Colorado’s water and the state as steward of the peoples’ property and is charged with its protection and enforcement of the public’s interest.” (

Water Contamination

We are also very concerned about reports of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing operations. The following information was also reported in the National Wildlife Federation’s report referenced above, but there have also been many other documented reports of groundwater contamination from around the country:

“The process of releasing natural gas from layers of rock through hydraulic fracturing is believed to potentially lead to the migration of gases into other geological layers, including aquifers.”

“Groundwater near drilling wells has in fact been contaminated with methane, the main component of natural gas. This can pose a fire and explosion hazard; the health risks of drinking methane-contaminated water remain unknown. While some cases of methane in water may be due to other causes, a peer-reviewed study by researchers from Duke University found that water from wells closer to active natural gas drilling sites had higher concentrations of methane. The researchers sampled water from wells and found that “Methane concentrations were 17-times higher on average…in shallow wells from active drilling and extraction areas than in wells from nonactive areas.”

According to StateImpact, (,  a project of National Public Radio, state environmental regulators in Pennsylvania blame methane migration for contaminated water wells in Dimock, Susquehanna County. They also found that:
Migrating gas is also the prime suspect for two problems that sprang up in May and June 2012: in Tioga County, a 30-foot geyser appeared along a road in Union Township, Tioga County. Private water wells also began overflowing, and gas puddles were discovered in a nearby creek. Similar problems surfaced 13 miles away in Leroy Township, Bradford County, where flammable puddles were discovered near a well drilled by Chesapeake Energy.”
Clean Water Action and the Poudre Canyon Group of the Sierra Club, based in Fort Collins, Colorado discovered the following data on water contamination for neighboring Weld County, Colorado: (
From August 2003 - January 2012, 1,000 “Incident Spill Reports” for oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing were reported to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).  Please note: the COGCC website only lists the 1,000 of the most recent reports.  These publicly searchable reports, (, reveal the following:

·       43% of spills have contaminated groundwater
·       3.1% of spills have contaminated surface water
·       43% of spills have resulted in, or been caused by, berm failures

A sampling of 60 of the 1,000 “Incident Spill Reports” reflects the following estimate of fluid contamination: 

·       Up to 824,600 gallons of oil have been spilled and “unrecovered” in Weld County
·       Up to 383,600 gallons of produced water have been spilled and “unrecovered” in Weld County
·       Up to 547,400 gallons of “Other” fluid have been spilled and “unrecovered” in Weld County.  (“Other” may include hydraulic fracturing fluids.)

These alarming results are for Weld County alone and do not reflect spills and groundwater contamination in the 41 other Colorado counties in which oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing occurs.  In addition, surface spills under 210 US gallons do not have to be reported to the COGCC, unless they affect “waters of the state.” Aren’t they all waters of the state, considering it’s all a part of the hydrological cycle and in need of our protection?

Produced Water

What happens to flowback and produced water (toxic liquid waste water) from hydraulic fracturing operations is shocking. 

In Colorado, produced water that contains hydraulic fracturing fluids may be permitted for discharge into streams and surfaces, and can be sprayed on dirt roads to reduce dust. According to the EPA, “pollutants are discharged into surface waters such as rivers, lakes or streams where they can directly impact aquatic life and drinking water sources.”  This is the result of some water treatment plants not having the ability to treat this type of wastewater. This data is referenced below:

According to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) website,

“About 60% of the produced water in Colorado goes into deep and closely-regulated waste injection wells, 20% evaporates from lined pits and 20% is discharged as usable surface water under permits from the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.”

“Evaporation is a common disposal method in the Piceance Basin, while surface discharges are common in the Raton Basin, where coal bed methane is produced, water production is significant, and the water meets or can be treated to meet surface discharge standards.”

“Produced water can also be sprayed on dirt roads to reduce dust, if authorized by the surface owner outside sensitive areas. It should not result in pooling or runoff and is supposed to meet allowable concentrations in Table 910-1. (COGCC Rule 907.c.2.D)”

According to the EPA, “Shale Gas Extraction – Industrial Effluent Guidelines – Fact Sheet dated October 2011:”

“Based on data provided by industry, it is evident that a portion of the injected fracturing fluid will return to the surface as “flowback,” sometimes called “produced water.” Up to one million gallons of shale gas wastewater may be produced from a single well within the first 30 days following fracturing.”

“These produced waters generally contain elevated salt content (often expressed as total dissolved solids, or TDS), many times higher than that contained in sea water, conventional pollutants, organics, metals, and NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material). Additional data show that flowback waters contain concentrations of some of the fracturing fluid additives.” 

“While some of the shale gas wastewater is re
used or reinjected, a significant amount still requires disposal. Some shale gas wastewater is transported to public and private treatment plants, many of which are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater. As a result, pollutants are discharged into surface waters such as rivers, lakes or streams where they can directly impact aquatic life and drinking water sources…. EPA plans to propose new standards for public comment in 2014.”

Radioactive Tracers

Man-made radioactive tracers, along with the other substances found in hydraulic-fracturing fluid, combined with naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) from shale deposits, return to the surface as produced water. When NORM is concentrated or exposed by human activities, such as hydraulic fracturing, it is classified as TENORM (technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material).

According to the EPA’s website,  (

“Many of the materials that are technically TENORM have only trace amounts of radiation and are part of our everyday landscape. However, some TENORM has very high concentration of radionuclides that can result in elevated exposures to radiation.” 

“EPA is working to understand the problem and to develop effective ways to protect humans and the environment from harmful exposure to the radiation in these materials. Because TENORM is produced by many industries in varying amounts and occurs in a wide variety of products, it is a particularly challenging problem in the U.S. Although EPA and others working on the problem already have learned a good deal about TENORM, we still do not understand fully all of the potential radiation exposure risks it presents to humans and the environment.”

Class II Injection Wells
According to the EPA’s website, (, there are approximately 144,000 Class II injection wells in the United States that inject over 2 billion gallons of brine every day. Colorado currently has 698 Class II liquid industrial waste injection sites.

When oil and gas are extracted, large amounts of brine are typically brought to the surface. Often saltier than seawater, this brine can also contain toxic metals and radioactive substances. It can be very damaging to the environment and public health if it is discharged to surface water or the land surface. By injecting the brine deep underground, Class II wells prevent surface contamination of soil and water.”

According to an investigative report published December 28, 2012 in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the following was reported:

Over the past 13 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has exempted only the oil and gas industry from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to allow the disposal of waste brine and hydrocarbon-containing fluids into drinking water aquifers deep underground. The injections are occurring east of Fort Collins in northern Weld County…”

A ProPublica investigation showed that the EPA has not kept track of how many aquifer exemptions have been issued nationwide, and records the agency provided ProPublica showed that many were issued in conflict with the EPA’s requirement to protect water that could be used for drinking. ProPublica found that about 1,100 aquifer exemptions have been approved by the EPA’s Underground Injection Control Program in its Rocky Mountain regional office in Denver.”

“In most cases, the EPA granted companies permission to pollute drinking water aquifers saying that they are not “reasonably expected” to be used for drinking water because they are too deep and too expensive to tap, making such an operation “technically impractical.”

“But Colorado may be forced to look deep underground for new water sources as shallower aquifers are depleted and water becomes more scarce as the climate changes, said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder.”
“The plan Colorado currently uses to calculate its water needs and supply through 2050 was last updated in 2012; it says very little about underground sources of water and even less about the how climate change could potentially affect the state’s water supply.”

(The Surface Water Supply Index)SWSI ignored climate change entirely because the state didn’t have enough money to address such a complex issue, the report says. But considering the impacts of climate change is critical when determining the harm oil and gas wastewater injections are doing to deep drinking water aquifers,” Williams said.

“We’re sacrificing those aquifers. In 50 or 100 years, we may actually like to have that water, and it will not be available. That’s a water quantity issue. The region’s water supply experts who say the drinking water lurking 8,000 feet or deeper underground can’t be tapped today also say the future may demand it.”

In addition, Colorado’s largest aquifer, the Ogallala, was contaminated by an EPA known frack fluid and thermogenic gas from a mining operation that uses fracking processes. For more information, please visit:

Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing

The House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Report: “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing,” (, details over 750 chemicals and other components used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Some of these chemicals are classified as carcinogenic and hazardous air pollutants. Given this, how can we, in good conscience, allow the use of these chemicals in our environment, communities, and neighborhoods?

Also, according to federal laws, the oil and gas industry does not have to disclose the chemicals they use in their proprietary hydraulic fracturing fluids. How these fluids and their effects are exempt from laws such as the Clean Water Drinking Act, the Safe Water Drinking Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act is unacceptable. These laws were enacted to protect our environment and our citizens. Allowing the oil and gas industry exemptions under the Halliburton Loophole undermines our most important environmental and public health laws, and consequently collides with Sierra Club’s mission statement. Isn’t it time these outrageous, unlawful exemptions are eliminated?

Below are some highlights from the Executive Summary of the report referenced above:

“Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 oil and gas service companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components. Overall, these companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water added at the well site – between 2005 and 2009.”

“Some of the components used in the hydraulic fracturing products were common and generally harmless, such as salt and citric acid. Some were unexpected, such as instant coffee and walnut hulls. And some were extremely toxic, such as benzene and lead.”

“Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing.”

“The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – appeared in 60 of the hydraulic fracturing products used between 2005 and 2009. Each BTEX compound is a regulated contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act and a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five year period.”

“In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to provide the Committee with a complete chemical makeup of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used. Between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. Committee staff requested that these companies disclose this proprietary information.”

“Some of these chemicals, if not disposed of safely or allowed to leach into the drinking water supply, could damage the environment or pose a risk to human health. During hydraulic fracturing, fluids containing chemicals are injected deep underground, where their migration is not entirely predictable. Well failures, such as the use of insufficient well casing, could lead to their release at shallower depths, closer to drinking water supplies.” Although some fracturing fluids are removed from the well at the end of the fracturing process, a substantial amount remains underground.”

“While most underground injections of chemicals are subject to the protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congress in 2005 modified the law to exclude “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities” from the Act’s protections. Unless oil and gas service companies use diesel in the hydraulic fracturing process, the permanent underground injection of chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

“Hydraulic fracturing companies used 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE) as a foaming agent or surfactant in 126 products. According to EPA scientists, 2-BE is easily absorbed and rapidly distributed in humans following inhalation, ingestion, or dermal exposure. Studies have shown that exposure to 2-BE can cause hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and damage to the spleen, liver, and bone marrow.  The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 21.9 million gallons of products containing 2-BE between 2005 and 2009. They used the highest volume of products containing 2-BE in Texas, which accounted for more than half of the volume used. EPA recently found this chemical in drinking water wells tested in Pavillion, Wyoming.”

States with the Highest Volume of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Containing 2-Butoxyethanol (2005-2009):

Fluid Volume (gallons)


New Mexico

West Virginia

We are aware of the FRAC Act to repeal the Halliburton Loophole that was introduced in 2008 and reintroduced in 2011 by Representatives Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, both Colorado Democrats who also sponsored the original bill.  The question we must ask is: Will repealing the Halliburton Loophole require the oil and gas industry to disclose the chemicals used in their proprietary hydraulic fracturing fluids? Disclosure is not enough.

Endocrine Disruption

Dr. Theo Colborn, founder and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX), based in Paonia, Colorado, is an environmental health analyst, and is known for her research on the health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Dr. Colborn’s website, (,  details the chemicals used in natural gas operations and their health effects.  Her findings are disturbing and should be alarming to all of us

After reviewing Dr. Colborn’s research, please consider the impacts in Colorado for a moment. There are over 49, 000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado and approximately 18,000 are located in Weld County. Some wells are located in neighborhoods and next to elementary schools and playgrounds.

Our own Sierra Club members and leaders live in communities surrounded by hundreds, and even thousands, of toxic fracking operations that use carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals to extract natural gas. The oil and gas operators fugitively emit and willfully release tons of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and hydrocarbon vapors from storage tanks, valves and nearly 900 parts and pieces of equipment that release fugitive emissions into their neighborhoods.

These toxic operations are close to the schools that their children attend and the playgrounds where they play. It is unethical and morally wrong that we are allowing this to happen when, according to Dr. Colborn’s research:

“Volatile organic compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, etc.,) and fugitive natural gas (methane), escape and mix with nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of diesel-driven, mobile and stationary equipment to produce ground-level ozone.” 

We have a responsibility to do something about this - for the environment and for our members. These emissions must be monitored now, not in 2015, as the COGCC suggests.

Additional concerns regarding chemical exposure in our communities involve the current setback rules in Colorado. Currently only 150’ setbacks are required in rural areas and 500’ setbacks in suburban areas for oil and natural gas wells from homes, schools, and businesses. Is this really safe, considering our own state law has a Setback Loophole that allows re-entry and re-drilling of any completed well regardless of  its proximity to a residential structure?  In some subdivisions, there are active and producing well sites within 50-100’ feet of homes.

Workplace Safety

We must ask: How safe are oil and gas field workers who are exposed to the impacts of hydraulic fracturing?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) identified:

“Exposure to airborne silica as a health hazard to workers conducting some hydraulic fracturing operations during recent field studies.”

That the exposure to hydraulic fracturing chemicals in an occupational setting needs to be examined to determine the acute and chronic effects on health. The exposure risks such as “transport, mixing, delivery, and potential accidents” have not been properly assessed.”

Air Pollution

Air pollution along the Front Range of Colorado is getting significantly worse and studies show that hydraulic fracturing is contributing to this problem.

In a study dated December 5, 2012 by the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment, we would like to call your attention to the following information provided under Table 5:

Average, speciated non-methane organic compounds (SNMOCs) concentrations were captured at 10 times those found in agricultural areas of higher oil and gas well pad density than in downtown Denver. This study clearly confirms the previous NOAA air chemistry study and Dr. Theo Colborn’s “Air Manuscript” chemical analyses of active oil and gas well pad chemical releases. The study also points to aggregate major point sources of pollution, which under the Clean Air Act, the oil and gas industry’s active well pads are considered “minor non-point sources” of pollution.  This is a critical area that needs to be immediately addressed and stopped.

From the article entitled “Hydraulic fracturing’s Dirty Air Secret” dated November 15, 2012 on Earthjustice’s website:  (

“Oil and gas drilling is a contributor to ozone—better known as smog—on Colorado’s Front Range. Smog is a health problem. As the American Lung Association explains, ozone is "the most widespread pollutant in the U.S." and "is also one of the most dangerous." Smog causes shortness of breath; chest pain when inhaling; wheezing and coughing; asthma attacks; and increased need for people with lung diseases to go to the hospital to get treatment. And let's not forget death. Thousands of premature deaths occur every year due to ozone levels above the current health standard set by the EPA.”

“Thanks in part to the hydraulic fracturing drilling boom, smog has gotten worse in Colorado over the past couple of years. How bad?  This summer was the worst Front Range smog year since 2006 with a month of unhealthy air days. State data for 2012 also show air in Greeley and Fort Collins north of Denver—near the heart of the hydraulic fracturing boom—exceeding health standards and getting worse.”

“And if that’s not enough, Rocky Mountain National Park was crowned the smoggiest national park outside of California this year. For the first time in the decade or so that the Park Service has records online. Can’t imagine that’s good for the tourism business, let alone the trees, wildlife and visitors.”
In an exploratory study of air pollution near natural gas operations conducted by The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal on November 9, 2012), the study’s abstract described the following:   (
“This exploratory study was designed to assess air quality in a rural western Colorado area where residences and gas wells co-exist. Sampling was conducted before, during, and after drilling and hydraulic fracturing of a new natural gas well pad. Weekly air sampling for 1 year revealed that the number of non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) and their concentrations were highest during the initial drilling phase and did not increase during hydraulic fracturing in this closed-loop system. Methylene chloride, a toxic solvent not reported in products used in drilling or hydraulic fracturing, was detected 73% of the time; several times in high concentrations. A literature search of the health effects of the NMHCs revealed that many had multiple health effects, including 30 that affect the endocrine system, which is susceptible to chemical impacts at very low concentrations, far less than government safety standards. Selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores. The human and environmental health impacts of the NMHCs, which are ozone precursors, should be examined further given that the natural gas industry is now operating in close proximity to human residences and public lands.”
A May 2012 study by the Colorado School of Public Health researchers discovered the following: ( fracturing-emissions.aspx)
“In a new study, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or hydraulic fracturing may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites. The report, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene. Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen.”

“…Exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes, all of which have neurological and/or respiratory effects, the study said. Those effects could include eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
"We also calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away]," the report said. Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios."

In April 2012, the EPA announced updates to nationwide air quality protections to include oil and natural gas production.  In the press release entitled, “Environmental Groups Praise EPA’s First-Ever Clean Air Protections for Hydraulic fracturing,” (, it’s important to note:

“The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS) will benefit the health of Americans and our environment in many ways. The updated standards will result in major reductions in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic benzene and methane, a highly potent contributor to climate disruption. These pollutants are known to cause asthma attacks, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, cancer and even premature death.”

“Today’s announcement by the EPA is a major step forward. However, the two-and-a-half-year delay in reducing pollution from wellheads is an unnecessary setback because industry can meet those standards now.”

At the same time, the EPA left out methane emissions and in turn the Club filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of its members against the EPA.

From the same press release, we would also like to highlight your statement:

“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is taking an important first step in closing loopholes for the natural gas industry and addressing dangerous air quality levels in and near frack-fields across the country,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

“The natural gas industry dumps massive amounts of air pollutants into our air every day, sickening families and children. An industry that touts its ability to efficiently drill thousands of wells thousands of feet into the earth is crying wolf when it claims it can’t build enough tanks to capture wellhead pollution. It’s time we clean up the natural gas industry’s dirty and reckless practices.”

The Climate Crisis

We are very concerned about how hydraulic fracturing is affecting the climate crisis.
As reported in the Journal of Nature on January 2, 2013: (

“Scientists are once again reporting alarmingly high methane emissions from an oil and gas field, underscoring questions about the environmental benefits of the boom in natural-gas production that is transforming the US energy system.”

“The researchers, who hold joint appointments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado in Boulder, first sparked concern in February 2012 with a study suggesting that up to 4% of the methane produced at a field near Denver was escaping into the atmosphere…..”

“Industry officials and some scientists contested the claim, but at an American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, California, last month, the research team reported new Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage — an eye-popping 9% of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data — which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado.”

And as stated on the Environmental Protection Agency website, methane gas is defined as follows: (

“Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. In 2010, CH4 accounted for about 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Methane is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, as well as human activities such as leakage from natural gas systems and the raising of livestock. Natural processes in soil and chemical reactions in the atmosphere help remove CH4 from the atmosphere. Methane's lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but CH4 is more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate crisis is over 20 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.”

In the Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature, last revised March 23, 2012, (, the following observations were made regarding fossil fuel emissions (please note: Dr. James Hansen is one of the researchers of this study)

“Maintaining a climate that resembles the Holocene, the world of stable shorelines in which civilization developed, requires rapidly reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions. Such a scenario is economically sensible and has multiple benefits for humanity and other species. Yet fossil fuel extraction is expanding, including highly carbon-intensive sources that can push the climate system beyond tipping points such that amplifying feedbacks drive further climate change that is practically out of humanity's control. This situation raises profound moral issues as young people, future generations, and nature, with no possibility of protecting their future well-being, will bear the principal consequences of actions and inactions of today's adults.”

Many of us have seen the film “Chasing Ice.” It’s time for each one of us to ask a very important question: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how concerned are you about climate crisis? Also, how concerned are you that our daily actions impact the vast majority of the world’s population that has not done a thing to contribute to the climate crisis – don't we have a responsibility and moral obligation to them to change the way that we live?

Making Hydraulic Fracturing Safer

Given that many of us depend upon oil and natural gas for our daily existence, there has been much discussion on what things could be done to make hydraulic fracturing safer including:

  •  Full enforcement of our current environmental laws by the EPA
  • Disclosure of all proprietary fracking fluids
  • Repealing the Halliburton Loophole
  • Developing strict guidelines and imposing penalties when laws are not followed (accountability)
  •  Providing the necessary inspectors to ensure compliance with all environmental laws and regulations. Currently Colorado has 17 inspectors to monitor over 49,000 active, plus 81,000 inactive wells

The real question is: Can hydraulic fracturing ever be safe for our environment and public health?

Sierra Club’s Oil and Gas Policy

We have reviewed the Club’s Oil and Gas Policy, as revised February 2012, and are pleased that it clearly states the reasons the Club doesn’t support hydraulic fracturing because of many of the points addressed in this letter.

We do want to recognize that the policy also supports:

·       Chapter advocacy for regional or state-wide moratoria
·       Bans in specific local environmentally sensitive areas such as federal roadless areas, state parks and forests, designated wildlife areas, and municipal watersheds
·       Local groups that call for a ban in their own communities

These changes to the 2009 Oil and Gas Policy were critical. Thank you for working towards these revisions – but we must do more.

Given the investigative reporting that continues to provide concrete evidence of accounts of water contamination, people becoming seriously ill who live close to well sites that have been fracked, animals dying after exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluids, and the unknown health issues that will surface in the coming years, we are asking the Club to take a leadership role in calling for a nationwide ban on mining that uses hydraulic fracturing. 

If we take a leap of faith and call for a nationwide hydraulic fracturing ban, we will move closer to the goal of a clean and healthy energy future, but our planet requires that we act today. If we don’t, we will drag this issue out for an indefinite period of time, further endangering our environment and public health, and accelerating the climate crisis. We don’t have time to wait.

Sierra Club v. Morton 45 U.S. 727 (1972)
Sierra Club v. Morton was one of the most important environmental lawsuits ever pursued. Over 40 years ago, Sierra Club saw that Mineral King needed protection from a proposed ski area development. Simply, the natural world needed a voice and Sierra Club was there to provide it. The Club had the courage to stand up and challenge the Interior Department’s policies on developing Mineral King. We didn’t win but today we have another chance.
Throughout our country today, the natural environment is being destroyed through hydraulic fracturing operations, mountaintop removal mining, our individual and collection actions that contribute to our climate crisis, and a host of other issues.
The natural world needs our voice more than ever. Will the Sierra Club be courageous enough to stand up once more and be that voice for our natural world? Are we up to the challenge?
We think that the dissenting opinion of Justice William O. Douglas, in Sierra Club v. Morton, foretold the future that lies in front of us today. Below is an excerpt from his dissenting opinion:

“The critical question of "standing" would be simplified and also put neatly in focus if we fashioned a federal rule that allowed environmental issues to be litigated before federal agencies or federal courts in the name of the inanimate object about to be despoiled, defaced, or invaded by roads and bulldozers and where injury is the subject of public outrage. Contemporary public concern for protecting nature's ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation. This suit would therefore be more properly labeled as Mineral King v. Morton.”

“Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality, a fiction found useful for maritime purposes. The corporation sole - a creature of ecclesiastical law - is an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases. The ordinary corporation is a "person" for purposes of the adjudicatory processes, whether it represents proprietary, spiritual, aesthetic, or charitable causes.”

“So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes - fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it. Those people who have a meaningful relation to that body of water - whether it be a fisherman, a canoeist, a zoologist, or a logger - must be able to speak for the values which the river represents and which are threatened with destruction.....”

“The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled. That does not mean that the judiciary takes over the managerial functions from the federal agency. It merely means that before these priceless bits of Americana (such as a valley, an alpine meadow, a river, or a lake) are forever lost or are so transformed as to be reduced to the eventual rubble of our urban environment, the voice of the existing beneficiaries of these environmental wonders should be heard.”

“Perhaps they will not win. Perhaps the bulldozers of "progress" will plow under all the aesthetic wonders of this beautiful land. That is not the present question. The sole question is, who has standing to be heard?”

“ Those who merely are caught up in environmental news or propaganda and flock to defend these waters or areas may be treated differently. That is why these environmental issues should be tendered by the inanimate object itself. Then there will be assurances that all of the forms of life which it represents will stand before the court - the pileated woodpecker as well as the coyote and bear, the lemmings as well as the trout in the streams. Those inarticulate members of the ecological group cannot speak. But those people who have so frequented the place as to know its values and wonders will be able to speak for the entire ecological community…”

In 2008, Ecuador’s Constitution was the first to: “Recognize that ecosystems possess the inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that people possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of ecosystems.  In addition, these laws require the governments to remedy violations of those ecosystem rights.”  

Ecuador broke new ground with the help of The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund that:  “is working with communities throughout the United States and in countries worldwide to assist in crafting and adopting new laws that change the status of natural communities and ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.”  (

Our planet needs the Sierra Club’s mission in action to endure and now, more than ever, we have the responsibility to “protect the planet” like no other time in our lives. 

As the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, as an activist, a father, and a human being, we call on your leadership to call for a nationwide ban on mining that uses hydraulic fracturing. We also ask that the Sierra Club lead the discussion on “The Rights of Nature,” and establish the protections needed to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of ecosystems to flourish and to defend their fundamental rights to exist without compromise.

We believe that the spirit to act on behalf of the natural world, and the spark to be courageous and do what’s right - not only for ourselves but for the greater good - is alive in us and in our members. This is how the Sierra Club was born.

We hope that you will have the courage to lead our country in calling for a nationwide ban on mining that uses hydraulic fracturing, regardless of the politics, and to acknowledge that the rights of our natural environment are worth fighting for. We believe that both of these things are worth the fight and we are confident that hundreds of thousands of Sierra Club’s members will stand behind you – there is no doubt.

Executive Committee
The Poudre Canyon Group
Fort Collins, Colorado

Shane Davis, Chair
Caroline Krumm, Vice Chair
John Gascoyne
Kerry Miller
Tyler Wilson                                                                                                                   

cc: Sierra Club Board of Directors


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