We’re Literally Eating and Drinking Plastic. Fossil Fuels Are To Blame.

July 10, 2019
 Climate Water

The plastics industry sees fracking as a huge opportunity for their profit margins. But plastic has already entered our food and water supply and our bodies—one more reason we need to move off fossil fuels before the problem gets even worse.

By Darcey Rakestraw

Care about plastic pollution? Then it’s time to work to start moving away from fossil fuels.

Plastic is a serious problem, and it’s time we addressed it at its source: fossil fuel production. Plastics are increasingly fueled by fracking in the U.S.—the extreme method of extracting fossil fuels that is polluting our air and our water, and exacerbating climate change. Fracking provides the cheap raw materials for plastics production, which has lead industry publication Plastics News to say fracking “represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” More fracking equals more profit in plastics (which equals, you guessed it…more plastics.)

It is so pervasive in our environment that it’s become commonplace to digest it through the microplastics present in our food and water.

Plastic in Water, Salt…Even Beer?

Everyone drinks water, and whether you drink tap water or bottled water, you are very likely ingesting some level of plastic pollution. A recent study by Orb Media tested 159 drinking water samples from cities and towns around the world, and 83 percent of those samples contained microplastic fibers. That means food prepared with plastic-contaminated water becomes contaminated as well.

Bottled water samples fared even worse than tap water—unsurprising because it is manufactured with plastic. Another recent study by the same organization found 90 percent of bottled water analyzed from around the world contained plastic microfibers. A single bottle of Nestlé Pure Life had concentrations of microfiber plastics up to 10,000 pieces per liter. The type of plastic used to make bottle caps was the most common type of microplastic fiber found in bottled water.

In response to the mounting evidence showing plastic is present in our drinking water, the World Health Organization is now looking into the problem.

Plastic has also been found in sea salt, and researchers attribute that to the ubiquitous nature of single-use plastics such as water bottles, which comprise the majority of plastic waste. In 2015 about 70 percent of plastic water bottles went unrecycled, and much of this plastic waste ends up in landfills, incinerators or in—you guessed it—our oceans and seas. Plastic has also been found in seafood, beer, honey and sugar.

We need more research on the extent of microplastic pollution and the best ways to treat water to remove it. It’s also clear that we need to upgrade water treatment plant infrastructure so it can handle this new pollutant. But the best way to address this pollution is at the source by reducing plastic waste in the environment.

Fracking in the U.S. Promotes a Global Plastics Bonanza

Fracking, which causes many negative public health problems and harms our air, water, and climate, is now powering a dangerous plastics bonanza. It was the rapid expansion of fracking in the United States that led to a gas glut, which drove real natural gas prices to the lowest level in decades. This is where the plastic industry came to the rescue of the oil and gas industry: low-cost ethane, a byproduct of fracking, is used to manufacture plastics.

Both plastic and ethane are being exported across the globe. More than half of the raw plastic produced in the U.S. is headed to distant shores. Whereas the chemical giant Ineos, based in the United Kingdom, is receiving ethane to help fuel European plastic factories. The controversial Mariner East pipeline system delivers this gas byproduct to the Marcus Hook export terminal in Pennsylvania—where it is then carried via massive “dragon ships” across the Atlantic to Ineos’ facilities in Grangemouth, Scotland and Rafnes, Norway.

What represents an “opportunity” for the plastics, oil, and gas industries means adverse health effects and climate catastrophe for all of us. To learn more about the toxic relationship between the plastics and fracking industry read our recent report, and spread the word: we can’t tackle plastic pollution without moving off fossil fuels. Will you help us put a stop to the fracking-to-plastics pipeline by chipping in once a month?

It Turns Out Fracking Is A Water Hog That’s Stealing Our Futures

July 10, 2019
 Climate Water
A team of Duke University researchers are delivering a truth that’s hard to swallow and that some of us predicted — fracking is resulting in the disappearance of usable water. Will the people listen and do something in time?

For years, the American people have been assured by energy companies that fracking is harmless and doesn’t use more water than other energy sources. The Duke research team that recently put out a new report begs to differ. They examined data across 12,000 wells and five years of operation. Here are key findings from the report and what they mean for our survival.

The Findings

Water is staying trapped in the shale, or if it does re-emerge, isn’t treated: 

Only a small fraction of the fresh water injected into the ground returns as flowback water, while the greater volume of FP (flowback and produced) water returning to the surface is highly saline, is difficult to treat, and is often disposed through deep-injection wells.

Right: Charts showing the increase in water use intensity over time. Left: Charts showing the decrease in usable Flowback & Produced waters over time. Courtesy of Duke University via Creative Commons.

The amount of water used by fracking has been critically underestimated.

The study finds that from 2011 to 2016, the water use per well increased by as much as 770 percent. In an interview for ThinkProgress, one of the authors of the study explained how early estimates of fracking’s irresponsible use of water had been so skewed:

“Previous studies suggested hydraulic fracturing does not use significantly more water than other energy sources, but those findings were based only on aggregated data from the early years of fracking… After more than a decade of fracking operation, we now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources.”— Avner Vengosh, Duke professor of geochemistry and water quality

The toxic wastewater produced is a much bigger problem than previously understood.

The study found that toxic wastewater produced from fracking had increased up to 1440 percent between 2011 and 2016. There has been no satisfactory practice of water treatment that returns this water to usable condition for humanity — and at this scale, one can reason that fracking is on pace to destroy U.S. water sources and leave us without water for our population’s consumption: 

The total water impact of hydraulic fracturing is poised to increase markedly in both shale gas– and oil-producing regions. On the basis of modeling future hydraulic fracturing operations in the United States in two scenarios of drilling rates, we project cumulative water use and FP water volumes to increase by up to 50-fold in unconventional gas-producing regions and up to 20-fold in unconventional oil-producing regions from 2018 to 2030, assuming that the growth of water use matches current growth rates and the drilling of new wells again matches peak production.

What We Do Next Is Critical

Waiting another five years for a new report to bolster this or to show an even bigger spike in fracking’s greedy water consumption is not an option.

“At a time when large parts of our county are suffering through persistent droughts and year-round fire seasons, it’s truly unconscionable that the fossil fuel industry would be allowed to divert vast volumes of water to fracking for oil and gas. The fact that the burning of this oil and gas is driving our climate chaos and intensifying the droughts and fires makes this reality all the more shameful and absurd.” – Seth Gladstone, Food & Water Watch

Organizations like Food & Water Watch and people like you need to double down on our efforts to ban fracking now and to move to 100% renewable energy ASAP. Humanity doesn’t get a do-over on saving our water supply. Help us do this work by chipping in as a monthly donor! 

Duke’s full report is available here:

A Ban on Fracking Is Missing From The Green New Deal. Help Fix That.

May 1, 2019

A Green New Deal has been on the lips and agenda of anybody with credibility on climate change these days. There’s one crucial piece of the plan we need your help to put in place: an explicit halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure, including fracking.

At Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action, the joy was palpable when we learned that a Green New Deal was about to become a household term all over the nation. We and our members were steeped in gratitude toward Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey. But we were troubled by one major step we knew that the plan (so far) lacked. We’ve been working even harder than ever to make sure people understand how important a ban on fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure is if we are to thwart a lingering dependence on oil.

The Proven Perils of Fracking

Fracking has been ravaging our planet and our resources for decades now, under the pretense that Big Oil cooked up. They said it was safe, new technology. They said it was necessary. They said it wouldn’t hurt us.

Nothing could be further from the truth, now that the long term data is in. We have, as they say, receipts.

It turns out, as so many of us knew, fracking is a water hog. It siphons up gallon after gallon of clean water that belonged to the people, and returns very little (if any) that is still usable.

Fracking is causing earthquakes.

Fracking is playing a role in climate change.

And fracking has shown decreasing profits over time. Now the titans of industry have colluded to make up a supposed demand for plastics to export overseas, in order to prop up their failing investment and squeeze some return from it. Their new plan only endangers nearby families and the world at large even further, whether it’s from the risk of explosions or the long term effects plastics are having on the health of people and our planet.

The Good Sense of Renewables

The truth is that the fair and just transition to 100% renewables is more feasible than many thought possible, and less costly than remaining stuck on fossil fuels. Not only is it doable (and will result in great jobs), it’s necessary. Full stop.

The United Nations’ special panel on climate change released a report in October 2018 showing strong evidence that if society does not greatly reduce the major contributors to climate change by 2030, the hope of staving off the worst effects of climate change is all but lost. Moving to 100% renewable energy is one of the most impactful ways to reduce the CO2 emissions that endanger us.

There has been no time to feel helpless or to delay. We’ve been working for years to move the United States off of fossil fuels and we knew that everything we’d worked for led to this moment. Soon after, our role became clear as talk of a Green New Deal emerged — Food & Water Action and its members will be pivotal in shaping a real Green New Deal that not only invests in our future, but puts its foot down against the dirty energy swindlers that have stolen too much from society already.

We Need Your Help To Do This

It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require research, organizing, legal work, media outreach, and endless hours of strategizing. And the opposition has a lot more cash to try to beat us with. But we’re all going to fight like we live here, because we do! That’s where you can help. By chipping in each month as a sustainer, in any amount that works for you, you help provide a base of support that we can plan on. That’s what is going to make ending fossil fuels possible.

This is a fight we must win, because this planet is the only one we get. Become a monthly member today!

Fight like you live here.


2018 Midterms Signal The Start Of A Green Wave — We Can Still Avert Climate Chaos

November 7, 2018


After two years of the Trump alliance’s runaway gutting of environmental, health, and safety protections, this election showed signs of hope that we can still rewrite our climate future. Here are our champions.

by Mark Schlosberg

With climate change catastrophes accelerating and the Trump faction in Congress declaring war on the environment for the past two years, the midterm elections were critical for anyone who cares about their food, water, and the climate on which we all depend. While some votes are still being counted, what is clear is that there will now be a firm check on Trump and what is just the start of a new green wave of climate champions is about to enter Congress. Climate will be a bigger political issue in 2019 than ever before.

Democrats Took Control of the House — The GOP’s Gutting of Safety Measures Can Be Challenged

At the federal level, Democrats took control of the House. Turnout was significant, with 114 million ballots having been counted so far. It means that Democrats now have the power to block legislation that guts protections for clean water, safe food, or a livable climate. It also means that powerful congressional committees — bodies that have been looking the other way the last two years — can exercise oversight and hold Trump’s corrupt EPA, Interior Department, and others accountable.

Most pressingly, the latest science (laid out in the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says we need to move off of fossil fuels as soon as possible. This means we need to pass aggressive legislation at the federal level by 2021 and crucially, voters ushered in several champions that share this vision.

Food & Water Action Rallied Bold Candidates Against Fossil Fuels

Throughout 2018, Food & Water Action has been asking candidates for Congress to pledge to support the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or OFF Act — the strongest climate bill in Congress, which would start the transition immediately and require 80% renewable energy in the next decade and 100% by 2035.

Several candidates who not only signed the pledge or made similar public commitments, but boldly support it were elected, bringing a new wave of climate champions to Congress.

These new members of Congress will include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an early signer of the OFF Act pledge who Food & Water Action endorsed and who has traveled the country talking about the need for a Green New Deal; Deb Haaland, who Food & Water Action endorsed and worked to elect one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress; Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who also become the first Muslim American women elected to the house; Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ousted Carlos Curbelo, chair of the phony Climate Solutions Caucus; and Susan Wild, who also won her race in Pennsylvania.

Three other races are not called yet, but have our climate champions ahead at the time of publishing. These include Katie Hill, whose district includes Porter Ranch, which was the site of the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas blowout and whose campaign Food & Water Action endorsed and worked to support; Harley Rouda, who is leading climate denier Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County; and Kim Schrier in Washington.

There Are More Climate Champions Now In Other Seats Nationwide, Too

At the state level, huge gains were also made nationally that provide significant opportunities. A few that have significance for climate include:

  • Jen Metzger won her State Senate race in New York. Food & Water Action endorsed her and did significant organizing work in support of her election. Several other progressive senators that we endorsed there won as well, giving the Democrats a majority in the New York State Senate for the first time in years and a block of champions who support moving to 100% renewable energy by 2035 and oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • In Pennsylvania, Food & Water Action PAC helped elect a slate of progressive state representatives including Danielle Friel Otten. Friel Otten lives 40 feet from the Mariner East 2 pipeline and has worked with Food & Water Action organizers for the past year and a half fighting the project. Food & Water Action PAC staff played a key role in her voter mobilization effort.
  • Gretchen Whitmer won the race for Michigan Governor. She has pledged to shut down Enbridge’s Line Five (the pipeline running through the Great Lakes) and we will ramp up a campaign to hold her to it and win the multi-year effort to protect the region from this ticking time bomb.
  • In California, Food & Water Action helped elect Robert Rivas to state Assembly. Rivas, who worked with Food & Water Watch on successive campaigns to ban fracking in San Benito and Monterey counties, has pledged to aggressively take on the oil industry in Sacramento.
  • In Florida, both gubernatorial candidates pledged to ban fracking. Andrew Gillum ran on a strong environmental platform including moving off of fossil fuels and banning fracking. Ron DeSantis, who is currently (at the time of publication) leading by a narrow margin, made banning fracking a core principle of his environmental policy. A fracking ban bill has been championed by a bipartisan group of leaders there in the past few legislative sessions. Regardless of who wins, we will hold the new governor accountable to his commitment to ban fracking in the coming year. We will also push to make sure the new governor does more to push renewable energy in the state.
  • In Connecticut, where Food & Water Watch has worked with over 50 communities to ban fracking waste, Ned Lamont who was elected governor has committed to banning fracking waste throughout the state. We look forward to working with him to make this a reality.
  • Voters stood against the harms of water privatization from coast to coast, with Baltimore voters outright banning water privatization in a campaign spearheaded by Food & Water Watch, and Monterey, CA voters advancing a measure to start the process of taking over the private water system.

Important Measures In Colorado and California Were Derailed, But We’ll Regroup For The Next Fights Ahead

Proposition 112, a Colorado measure that would have protected citizens from the risks that fracking poses to their health and safety, was foiled by over $40 million in misleading advertising from the oil and gas industry. Likewise, industry spent massively against a local measure in San Luis Obispo County in California: Measure G, which would have banned fracking — a necessary step toward a livable climate for our future. Sadly, this crucial initiative to protect the public was also defeated.

Food & Water Action takes on fights because they are the right thing to do to protect the people, and we don’t shy away from the battles that we could sometimes lose. Each election expands our reach, educates voters over time, and positions us to be stronger for future initiatives. We’re proud of the work our team and allies did in these hard-fought ballot campaigns and know that even in these losses, the movement will be better positioned to advance protections for people and the environment in the years to come.

We Helped Get These Champions In the Door — Now the Next Phase Of Work Begins

The majority of this is great news, but it is just the beginning. It shows that when we mobilize people to demand a fair and livable future, we can win, but those wins are by no means guaranteed. We have a ton of work to do — to hold officials accountable to their promises, to support elected champions in their efforts, and to grow and broaden the movement. And make no mistake, there were significant losses yesterday as well — and many of these losses are the product of politically gerrymandered districts and voter suppression tactics that we must fight at every turn.

Despite those obstacles, the 2018 election shows that together we can achieve big things: we can block the worst of Trump’s environmental agenda in Congress, we now have leaders in place that can advance measures at the state level to move off fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy, and we are one giant stride closer to moving a massive federal program to get off fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy immediately.

But these things will only happen if we redouble our efforts; we need to build stronger and broader coalitions, we need to engage even more people in the political process, and we need to build on these wins as we continue to fight for our food, water, and future of our planet. We need you with us.

Chip in to Food & Water Watch for the work ahead. 

Group Reveals Concerning Big Energy Campaign Finance for Ron DeSantis

October 10, 2018
 Climate  Florida

Today, new Food & Water Action research revealed that energy utility companies including Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power, and TECO have given $3 million this year to Associated Industries of Florida’s (AIF) controlled PACs and given $9 million over the past 5 years. AIF, one of the most powerful lobby groups in Tallahassee, has endorsed Ron DeSantis for Governor and funneled millions of these dollars to the Florida Republican Party.

This campaign finance report calls into question if key pieces of DeSantis’s environmental platform can be taken seriously given that his policies are adamantly opposed by the special interests supporting him. Desantis says he will push to ban fracking but AIF has been one of the most visible groups lobbying against legislation to ban fracking over the last two years. DeSantis says he will also ensure offshore drilling doesn’t occur near Florida, but AIF supports drilling off the coast, even going as far as opposing Amendment 9 that would ban offshore drilling within state waters. Energy utilities like Florida Power & Light also rely on natural gas obtained from fracking.

Voters have become acutely aware of how corporate special interests play a disproportionate role in influencing water, energy, and environmental policy. News reports in the past weeks have described how DeSantis has pledged not to take money from Big Sugar, a major culprit in the algal blooms that have been contaminating Florida’s water. But AIF has meanwhile been receiving sugar industry money that has also benefited DeSantis’ campaign.

Food & Water Action is calling on DeSantis to show he’s committed to his policy positions by asking him to renounce AIF money and any other funds from the energy industry.

DeSantis’s opponent, Andrew Gillum, has signed Food & Water Action’s pledge against accepting any Big Oil & Gas campaign funding. If DeSantis wants to show he is honest in his promises to ban fracking and stop offshore drilling, he must give the money back and stand up to special interests like Florida Power & Light and Associated Industries of Florida that stand to benefit from oil and gas drilling.

Note: The five AIF affiliated PACS have given almost all their money to republican candidates: from 2013 to 2018, 89% of campaign contributions from AIF-controlled PACS went to Republican candidates ($328.5K to GOP candidates of $370.5K total contributions). In 2018, contributions have been slightly more Republican leaning, with 93% going to GOP ($135.5K to GOP of $145.5K total contributions).  These numbers do not include money spent on advertising, scorecards, events, staff, and other political spending.

Now Even Ultra-Conservatives Want to Ban Fracking

September 14, 2018
 Climate  Florida

Earlier this week, Ron DeSantis laid out his environmental platform. 

Before evaluating one of the key pieces of his platform — banning fracking– it should be noted that while in Congress, Ron DeSantis has racked up an abysmal voting record on the environment. The League of Conservation Voters has given DeSantis a lifetime voting score of 2%. So 98% of the time, DeSantis has voted against environmental protections. DeSantis even refuses to admit that climate change is an issue and denies that human activities play a role in the warming climate. He also repeatedly accepts campaign funds from Big Oil & Gas. It is difficult to believe any of his campaign promises to ban fracking and offshore drilling when the very industry that is pushing the ‘drill baby drill’ mentality is bankrolling his campaign. 

The bright spot: After several years of pushing for a statewide fracking ban in the Sunshine State, it is clear now fracking has grown past its partisanship and become an issue that people of all political identities are behind. Ultra conservative gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has not only declared his support for banning fracking, but has stated that he’ll advocate for a fracking ban starting on day one, if elected. Before the primary election on August 28th, Food & Water Action recorded all seven major Republican and Democratic candidates expressing concrete support for a statewide fracking ban. This was unprecedented, not only in Florida but across the country. Banning fracking has been mostly seen as a progressive issue, but this election season has proven that is no longer the case. 

This sends a strong message nationwide that fracking is too dangerous for our water, our communities, and climate — not just for Florida, but everywhere. This is a far cry from President Trump’s frack-at-any-cost mentality. The Trump Administration has lowered environmental standards for the fracking industry, allowed the industry to send more methane into the atmosphere, and even opened up more public lands to fracking. Big Oil & Gas has a stronghold on our top level public officials, so it’s up to us to make sure our state and local governments respond to the will of the people and protect the environment.

President Trump should take heed: the movement to ban fracking is growing. We are excited to work to make sure Florida will be the fourth state to ban fracking. We’re sending a message nationwide that the drilling practice is too dangerous for Florida and too dangerous for America.

Donate to Keep Your Community Safe from Fracking!