FrActivists’ Online Manual

The Oxford Visionaries realize that the issues surrounding fracking are numerous, complex, extremely controversial, and politically divisive. That’s why our website attempts to explore all of these critically important matters for your understanding and use.

We’ve also made this Website suitable for your mobile device, so you can carry us everywhere (except while driving)!

Welcome to your Online FrActivists’ Manual

This website serves as a rich practical resource for Oxford and other communities to develop and manage a strategy to ban fracking and the extension of pipelines to compress and transport methane gas within their jurisdictions.

The following brief article confirms that the anti-fracking movement has gained momentum and has become highly effective:

Gas Industry Report Calls Anti-Fracking Movement a “Highly Effective Campaign”

Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:23 By Katrina Rabeler, Yes! Magazine | Report

A report intended to help the oil and gas industry squash the anti-fracking movement turns out to be full of useful information – and admits that much of what activists are saying is true.

Communities working to stop a controversial gas drilling process are getting what sounds like encouragement from an unlikely source: a report prepared for the oil and gas industry on the risks posed by those communities themselves. Even more bizarre than a risk assessment about grassroots activists is one that basically admits the activists are right.

Control Risks, the global risk and strategic consulting firm that conducted the report, calls itself “independent,” but it makes its alliances clear in the first few sentences. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could bring “a golden age of cheap, plentiful energy for a resource-constrained world,” writes senior global issues analyst Jonathan Wood, “but only if it makes it out of the ground.”

Entitled “The Global Anti-Fracking Movement: What It Wants, How It Operates, and What’s Next,” the 2012 report uses the term “battlegrounds” to describe more than thirty countries on six continents where the issue of fracking is being debated. Its warnings about the dangers of ignoring the anti-fracking movement were likely a motivator behind last week’s so-called truce between four gas companies and a handful of environmental groups in the Appalachian Basin. Shell, Chevron, CONSOL Energy, and EQT Corporation joined with the Environmental Defense Fund, the Clean Air Task Force, and a few others to form the Center for Sustainable Shale Development. The Center will monitor the 15 environmental standards for fracking agreed upon by the alliance and will certify drilling operations that voluntarily comply with the standards.

Although the report is intended to provide gas companies with a plan for squashing the anti-fracking movement, people concerned about the environment or public health will find it worth reading for at least three reasons (besides entertainment). It contains reams of hard data about the movement, it identifies the tactics that have been most successful so far, and it ultimately backs up many of the movement’s key arguments.

The report assembles a wealth of information about fracking and the movement against it. It begins with a world map in which shale gas reserves are colored blue. This reveals huge stores of gas buried beneath areas such as Tibet, southern Brazil, Libya, and almost the entirety of South Africa. Just a glance gives a global perspective on what the anti-fracking movement is really up against.

A few pages later, there’s a chart measuring Google searches for the terms “fracking,” “shale gas,” and “Gasland”—the title of a 2010 documentary about natural gas drilling. The chart shows that before the release of the film, few people were searching for information about fracking. Only after a sharp spike in searches for the term “Gasland” is there a strong, steady rise in search activity for “fracking” and “shale gas.”

This helps to demonstrate just how important the film was in raising awareness about the process. Wood says it provided the movement with a shared point of reference, and claims that the movement wouldn’t have gone global without the documentary’s scenes of flaming water pouring from people’s faucets.

“They pretty much blame us for the whole thing,” said Gasland director Josh Fox.

Praise for direct action

Wood goes on to describe other tactics, besides creating a fiery documentary, that have made anti-fracking activists so effective. Citing national fracking moratoriums in France and Bulgaria, as well as local bans and stricter drilling regulations worldwide, Wood claims the gas industry has “repeatedly been caught off guard by the sophistication, speed, and influence of anti-fracking activists.”

John Armstrong, coordinator for the anti-drilling group Frack Action, has his own theory about why that is so. The anti-fracking movement “grew out of the grassroots—it wasn’t led by any national NGO but stemmed from regular working people who have never been activists before,” he says. “It is born out of children who have become ill, farms that have been ruined, aquifers and wells that have been contaminated, and air that has been poisoned.”

That grassroots urgency has often pushed the movement toward direct action, which Wood predicts will increase if demands for moratoriums and bans are not met. He identifies blockades of drilling operations, for example, as highly effective: “While the costs to activists of blockades are extremely low—both in terms of organization and penalties—the potential for disruption to the target can be significant in terms of lost productivity and extra operating costs.”

Freedom to frack in four easy steps?

To avoid ever-increasing blockades and moratoriums, Wood advises gas companies to follow his four-step plan for quelling the anti-fracking movement: acknowledge local grievances, engage communities, work to reduce the damage fracking does to the environment, and “create more winners” (by which he means giving communities a fair share of the money from fracking). Wood also suggests that, “Movements towards greater transparency and voluntary disclosure, however grudging, are a positive step in this direction.”

In other words, the report advises oil and gas companies to give anti-fracking activists much of what they’re asking for or risk having the process banned altogether. In doing so, Wood concedes that opponents of fracking are often right. He describes the “cozy relationships” the industry has with regulators and power-brokers, and the “crippling trust deficit” it has with citizens. He confesses there really is inadequate knowledge about the environmental, economic, and health impacts of fracking and that the industry has funded most of the studies that do exist, sometimes secretly.

Wood warns the industry to be more careful in its drilling practices because each well blowout and water contamination story makes the anti-fracking argument more compelling. When such incidents do occur, Wood suggests gas companies simply pay off harmed landowners and other citizens who file water contamination charges or other complaints, rather than go to court and have to admit they were at fault. This is not a new strategy—Wood cites a recent case where the industry did just that.

Finally, the report validates many activists’ claims that fracking doesn’t actually provide local communities with significant economic growth: fracking booms typically only supply local jobs for about two to three years.

Measuring momentum

After laying out this elaborate battle plan, Wood concludes with what activists may read as a challenge. The anti-fracking movement, he believes, “is grappling with the consequences of its successes, struggling to maintain momentum after winning tighter regulation, moratoriums and bans.”

Frack Action’s Armstrong disagrees, pointing to larger and more frequent rallies in New York. “Momentum is on our side, polls are on our side, the science and truth are on our side, and New Yorkers know that we are going to win.”

By winning, Armstrong means a statewide ban on fracking. New York, which he says has been the anti-fracking movement’s “catalyst,” currently awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s final decision on whether to lift the ban on fracking following a five-year moratorium. Forty-three percent of state residents oppose the process, while only 39 percent support it, according to a March Siena Poll, and the majority of both the state assembly and senate recently came out in favor of extending the moratorium.

Wood’s report is an attempt to use the industry’s resources—primarily money—to regain the upper hand in important decisions like this one. But, if studied closely, it could also help the anti-fracking movement plan its next steps.

Next Steps in Oxford

Neither the Oxford Visionaries movement nor any of its individual participants have had any affliliations with Oxford’s government or its officials, nor have any Village or Town officials ever endorsed the Oxford Visionaries.

We are sharing this model primarily to guide others in replicating our vision in their own distinctive ways — to announce breaking news, to share our unique successes and experiences, to offer our knowledge, and to gather the facts, insights and know-how about community-wide planning that others have developed.

With your involvement, will become your  indispensable “FrActivists’ Manual for Banning Gas Drilling in Your Village, your Town or your City!

Why Our Campaign is Urgent: The Power of Home Rule

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that any municipality has the power under New York’s principle of Home Rule to pass a moratorium . to postpone a decision whether to allow fracking or to ban fracking outright, as one hundred and fifty municipalities – including Oxford – have already done!

These diverse communities have taken these actions in response to fears of

. . . among many other deeply troubling and alarming consequences affecting whole communities.

The widespread impacts are already evident where fracking has occurred. They range from dying cows in North Dakota and poisoned wild animals in Pennsylvania to soaring rates of cancer in Texas, to once-babbling brooks that are now bubbling with methane in Colorado.

Accidents happen, along with spills of toxic and radioactive waste water on local roadways and into roadside ditches and sreams, to earsplitting noise from compressors, heedless violations of safety and health ordinances defying enforcement by part-time Mayberry-level enforcement officers.

Far from being baseless fantasies, these fears are grounded in documented evidence which we present. In addition to the links above, we provide evidence that you will be able to inspect throughout the pages of this website and among the many links to other online resources.

Fracking: A clear and present danger

Fracking is an innovative, imperfect and controversial industrial process in which millions upon millions of gallons of fresh water, sand and toxic chemicals are blasted down wells thousands of feet deep to free natural gas from a network of horizontal tentacles stretching for miles under a 640 acre “spacing unit” .

That’s roughly a square mile: the size of our entire village of Oxford.

Each unit will combine large properties leased by their owners for drilling with many smaller adjacent parcels belonging to folks who oppose gas drilling. Gas companies can seize the mineral rights to anyone’s property under New York State’s unique compulsory integration law, an extraordinary interpretation of eminent domain.

Two gas companies (Norse and Chesapeake) have contracted with local landowners to frack under 68% of the land beneath Oxford Town and Village as soon as the State gives them the green light to drill, baby, drill!

The Overwhelming Evidence

Skeptics who favor fracking demand to see the evidence to ban fracking. For example, who says that fracking isn’t environmentally safe? Let’s see the research about contaminated wells. Since the gas companies have explained that they drill thousands of feet below the water table, how on earth can the fracking fluid contaminate the aquifer or any water well located thousands of feet above?

Some folks disagree with our view of community involvement to assist decision makers in forming such difficult judgments — particularly landowners who stand to benefit financially from fracking. This website includes links to sites that support fracking because we are confident that a fair examination of all facets of the complex issues surrounding fracking can only strengthen our position. Our website therefore offers concerned residents – including landowners who have signed gas leases but are attempting to remain open-minded — a resource to find reliable information to challenge propaganda on both sides of the issue.

We are also aware that those who passionately oppose fracking may occasionally overstate the case. For example, is the anti-fracking opponents’ nightmarish prediction an exaggeration – namely, that Oxford could become a bleak, industrialized wasteland, its verdant pastures contaminated, its rivers drained, its trout streams lifeless its lush hillsides transformed into a forbidding patchwork quilt of toxic brownfields?

Or is fracking faithfully illustrated by all the TV ads — an environmentally “respectful” bonanza for economic development and wildlife, clean air and pure water, and a solution to America’s pioneering quest for energy independence through clean “natural” gas?

Good questions!

That’s precisely why we have established this website. That is why we’ve created a body of information, including objective research findings, links to other reliable websites, and to our own eyewitness experiences, so that interested citizens in our community and elsewhere can make well-informed decisions.

For those who oppose fracking elsewhere, we have created this online “How To Guide” to banning fracking in your community.

For landowners who have signed or are considering signing a gas drilling lease, we’ve provided a special page of cautionary advice — questions to ask the landman, the lawyers, and landowners themselvcs!