City of Tacoma supports a fracking atrocity

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I have struggled to describe how wrong Puget Sound Energy’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant is for both our community and for the planet. Not only will it create a potential blast zone that could cause massive damage for more than three miles around the plant, but it will pollute the air throughout the Puget Sound region. Globally, it will cause even more environmental harm. The fracking wells required to supply the natural gas to this plant will contaminate the ground water for hundreds if not thousands of square miles. The chemicals that the fracking process injects into the ground are known to cause cancer, disrupt the endocrine system, suppress immune responses, cause genetic mutations and cause reproductive problems. Increased earthquakes have also been identified as a result of fracking wells. The damage that this project will cause is so disproportionate to its size that it is hard to fathom. In order to supply two TOTE ships with LNG and create 16 jobs, PSE’s LNG refinery will contaminate an area about the size of Rhode Island with fracking wells.

The analogy that I frequently used in the past was to compare using fracked gas in the LNG plant to mining “blood diamond.” While watching the History Channel the other day, I came upon an even better comparison: gold mining. Originally gold mining was accomplished simply with a gold pan in a river. Then gold producers discovered that they could use mercury to process gold nuggets and black sand. The effects of mercury were not well understood at the time, and mercury turned out to be a silent killer. As even more efficient methods for mining were developed, the devastation of the natural surroundings was increased. Large sluice boxes have replaced the gold pans. Huge bulldozers, backhoes and hydraulic hoses have become the norm. The mercury contamination from the early years of mining, 1850-1960, has left large contaminated regions of the Earth, including large areas of the Amazon jungle. Large swaths of the Amazon are still being deforested due to the mining and the bioaccumulation of mercury in the fish has created toxic levels of mercury in humans.

Just like “mining for gold,” “fracking for natural gas” uses toxic processes that contaminate the environment. In both cases, the producers are willing to risk the health of those around the wells or mining sites in order to reap huge profits. In a recent sermon, my pastor used the word “atrocity” to describe these types of actions. I was so impressed with her words that I asked for a copy: “most people are too busy with their lives to notice how the powers of the world are committing atrocities against our fellow human beings. How they break laws to exploit our environment, how they enact unjust laws that are prejudiced against people of color and people living in poverty.”

Her words remind me that while we need to be concerned about the local impact of a possible fire or explosion from the 8-million gallon LNG storage tank, we also must consider the impact from the upstream fracking wells. Fracked natural gas affects us all because of the impact of leaking methane on climate change, but has an even more immediate harm to the people who live near those wells. Because these well are often sited in remote locations, those impacted include many Native Americans, as well as many people struggling with rural poverty. “Atrocity” is the right word to describe companies poisoning the air, land and water in order to reap a profit. Tacoma will be connected to the upstream site of these toxic atrocities. We will be connected by a six-inch metal pipe carrying the fracked gas to the LNG site. By approving the project, the City of Tacoma becomes a willing participant to the atrocities. What will each of us do to stop it?

Steven Storms has a bachelors degree in chemical engineering and was a licensed professional engineer (PE). He has nearly 40 years experience working in heavy industry with a good portion in the energy and environmental fields. He retired as the project director of process evaluation. He is also past chairman of the Puget Sound chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Currently he is vice president of Advocates for a Cleaner Tacoma, a member of Redefine Tacoma and a proud supporter of Native rights. He is a resident of Northeast Tacoma.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Hard to believe a Professional Engineer can regurgitate such bilge. Fraccing does not contaminate goundwater & such chemicals as are used, are used miles below groundwater. Also, to compare professional fraccing with artisanal mining {major gold mining does not use mercury – the cyanide process is well over a century old} is ingenuous, to say the least.

  2. Said the person, who most likely works for said fracking companies, and is a profit seeker himself. Would love to know your credentials and what evidence you can provide to support your aimless babble.

  3. You’re saying cyanide is better than mercury poisoning? Who are you anyway? Do you have any credentials, let alone a name?

  4. Thank you Steve Storms for all your work towards educating the public as to this completely inappropriate, and dangerous in-all-ways LNG project in the heart of Tacoma.

  5. @Suzanne. Not aimless babble, & you are aimless to characterise it as such. I seek no profits, but Steven Storms was posting nonsense. The evidence is negative – there is no verified instance of fraccing contaminating water. Similarly look at that endocrine stuff – every article states that there is no proven linkage to fraccing.
    @Kathryn. No, my point was that major companies with proper environmental controls use cyanide. I advocate that pricing is only performed by major companies exercising proper environmental controls.
    Yetypu

  6. A simple google search of “Fracking contaminates water” brings up a host of reputable articles, for those who would care to be enlightened and not fooled. FYI – you are less likely to find competent articles if you choose to use the spelling with two c’s. Here’s a subtitle to the Scientific American article link below “It took nearly a decade, but former EPA scientist Dominic DiGiulio has proved that fracking has polluted groundwater in Wyoming” Not the use of the word PROVED
    https://www.apmreports.org/story/2016/12/13/epa-fracking-contamination-drinking-water
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fracking-can-contaminate-drinking-water/

    • @Twylia
      That “simple search” does not bring up ANY article proving anything. I challenge you to cite just one instance of fraccing contaminating ground water – I require you to cut & paste the actual sentence that states this, & give the link & where it can be found within the linked article. Can’t be done.

      As to EPA ex-employee & Pavillion Wyoming- not he didn’t prove it & the Scientific American article is worthless. fyi – at Pavillion there were surface leaks – not fraccing & samples taken from the actual formation, the Upper Wind River, which had been fracced. I’m sorry, but a sample of something that might be trace frac fluid, taken from within a formation that is known to have been fracced … proves exactly what? DiGiulio is a disgrace as an investigative scientist.

      • I get it. You are an absolute fan of fracking. Not sure where you find the gall to discredit DiGiulio as a disgrace to science. I only found one article, and it appeared to be written with a heavy slant toward industry. If you have anything more, you should post the proof here. And I read the story, and I’m convinced of the evidence. You are free to not believe the evidence. But here’s something that I have that you may not have….I have friends and relatives who live near the Alberta tar sands. Their experiences, which have now also been backed by science, are powerful supports to the argument. If you are able and willing to have an honest debate with facts and not just rhetoric tinged heavily by industry, let me know.

        • Yes, I am a fan of fraccing. I’ve done it on 4 continents, my first in 1973. So the many lying claims upset me. DiGiulio is an EPA ex-employee, probably because of that dog’s breakfast investigation at Pavillion. What “convincing” evidence could you possibly find? Its a no-brainer that a formation that has been fracced might contain traces of fraccing. Finding traces in a different formation might be indicative of contamination, but not finding the traces in the actual formation that was fracced.
          The heavy oil in Alberta couldn’t be further from fraccing clean gas, there is no association.

  7. I want to share links and comment that a friend has provided:

    2017 Forbes article: Why Fracking is Harmful to your Health – https://bit.ly/2Gt0CfR
    2018 Physicians for Social Responsibility compendium of fracking health impacts – https://bit.ly/1GR9j8H
    2017 Washington Post article on fracking and increase in earthquakes – https://wapo.st/2IoEgsg

    Remember just a few short years ago (2013, ’14, ’15) the popular belief was that fracking wasn’t that bad and LNG was the “green bridge fuel”. I have watched dozens of industry videos illustrating the fracking process. It’s just that they were terribly wrong (or dishonest). Current scientific and epidemiological studies are showing that fracking is a Trifecta of horrors, from contaminated groundwater, health impacts, high risk pregnancies, earthquakes, and double-digit methane leaks at the fracking fields and along leaky pipelines.

    We need to keep current in our knowledge for our water, our planet, our children, and their future.

    Thank you,
    Desiree Douglass
    Douglass Consulting
    Environmental Planning & Design

  8. after working outside of Tacoma trying to make a livable wage sitting on I -5 on my way home do to ridiculous traffic back ups Someday the whole thing just might blowup due to the LNG plant … Just goes to show our elective officials don’t represent us anymore and just the billionaires. Shameful !

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