New York

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea is a Professor of engineering at Cornell University and a member of the Cornell Fracture Group. As an expert in the field of fracture mechanics, he travels around the U.S. to inform citizens about unconventional hydraulic fracturing, the new practice that has quickly gained momentum in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Dr. Ingraffea approaches his audiences factually in an effort to help landowners make smarter decisions when confronted by natural gas companies. He works to dispel myths propagated by these companies that may otherwise misinform.

Dr. Ingraffea knows the technology well and is an affable, well-versed speaker. His main points are that:

  1. Unconventional shale gas development (the new “fracking”) is a relatively recent enterprise, fewer than 15 years old, and is the result of 4 new combined technologies that did not become available until the time period of 1996-2007.
  2. The new fracking technology is still being invented and much of the research studying the process and its effects has not yet been done.
  3. This new unconventional fracturing technology takes a lot longer than conventional fracturing and results in much greater amounts of air, light, and noise pollution.
  4. The new technology has a higher risk to the environment and human health and has higher fugitive emissions of methane, which is 20x more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. It’s possible that the total footprint of the natural gas drilling process is not better than coal or oil’s.
  5. The cumulative effect of purposeful ground and air releases that occur in the fracking process are still unknown.
  6. The industry does not have complete control of the technology; they rely on imperfect models.
  7. Natural gas cannot solve our energy crisis– it’s nowhere near production levels to drastically decrease the US’ current dependence on foreign oil.

Just from watching even one of Dr. Ingraffea’s community lectures, I learned a lot. What impresses me most about Dr. Ingraffea is that he’s aware that it is ultimately the landowner’s decision whether or not they want unconventional fracing done on their property and he tries to empower them in the process.  He attempts to leave his opinion out of his lectures until it’s asked, and leave the “Is it worth it?” question largely up to the citizen. He believes that “forewarned is forearmed” and wants listeners to be aware of the risks involved, such as the probability that 1 in 20 wells will leak immediately (which is a great number when you consider the 400,000 wells drillers have planned). He really tries to encourage a thorough understanding in the average American of this new phenomenon that may otherwise seem confusing and unclear. In the process, I think he probably causes a lot of people (even initial skeptics) to reach much more environmentally sound conclusions!

To listen to Dr. Ingraffea yourself, here is his presentation “The Facts on Fracking”, Luzerne County, 2010:

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Summer Rayne Oakes

Summer Rayne Oakes is an environmental scientist-turned-model who has cleverly merged the two fields in an attempt to make the fashion industry more sustainable. As a graduate of Cornell University, Udall and PERC Scholar and National Wildlife Federation Fellow, Summer’s passion has always been the environment. After working in aquatic systems, mine reclamation, and waste management, however, she realized it would be hard to achieve the broader level policy changes she was hoping for. She had an epiphany that she could use her natural modeling attributes to bring sustainability to a trade that otherwise was very powerful and very wasteful: fashion.

Summer moved to New York City and branded herself as an “eco-model”. She only takes jobs that have a green counterpart and often consults on set on ways the product can be more sustainable. She has become a type of “go-to person” on greening the fashion business and has published a sustainable fashion book called “Style, Naturally”. She also founded a sustainability innovation firm (SRO, LLC) to advise clients outside of her modeling projects and she created a sustainable sourcing website (Source4Style) to give designers easier access to “greener” materials. Summer’s strategy is to increase awareness in people that normally wouldn’t think of the environment and show them the benefits of changing their practices.

Summer believes that her generation (I guess that means mine too?) is going to solve our disastrous environmental problems, especially by challenging traditional practices like fashion to be more mindful of its effect on the world. She wants everyone to see that environmental catastrophes are not far-off and must be dealt with in our lifetimes (she has even created a short film called “eXtinction” that demonstrates all of the devastation experienced in one woman’s lifetime from birth to death). What I like most about Summer is that she demonstrates that we can all be models of sustainability, wherever our workplace, whatever we do. We can all be voices of change. Thank you Summer!

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Jodi and Jeff Andrysick

Jodi and Jeff Andrysick are wife and husband farmers-turned-filmmakers from Pulteney, New York. They own a 12-acre organic nut, berry and fruit farm and were building a farm store when fracking hit New York. Worried that fracking would ruin upstate New York’s prized tourism, wine and farming industries, and destroy the state’s pristine natural beauty, they stopped their store’s construction and divested their life savings toward fighting the fracking frenzy. After realizing that the same people seemed to be involved in the anti-fracking loop and that the public was still vastly uninformed, Jodi and Jeff decided to focus on producing films. They believed a film about fracking would be the best way to rally people to create a public outcry.

New York currently has high-volume hydofracking banned while the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reviews pending regulations. Jodi and Jeff hope that their films will create enough public pressure to force Governor Cuomo and the DEC to be as strict as possible. They want communities to have the power to ban fracking in their areas (Syracuse and Albany have already done so) and have had their own success in keeping the fracking process away from their home. When Chesapeake Energy Corporation wanted to dump a billion gallons of toxic fracking fluid wastewater near Pulteney and neighboring Keuka Lake, they led a community rebellion on Superbowl Sunday in resistance. Enough citizens showed up for Chesapeake Energy to revoke their permit application to dump at that site.

Jodi and Jeff have also hosted three public informational events to educate people about fracking’s effects. One event, held on their property this past summer, brought speakers and experts to teach attendees how to organize others in the fight. Their “EPIC No Frack Event” at Ithaca College combined music and environmental film screenings to get more college-aged youth involved. Because of their extensive efforts, the couple have gone over $15,000 in debt. Their conviction that fracking would spoil their beloved home state, however, pushes them to continue. They believe the money they’re spending on preventing fracking is only a portion of the eventual costs to residents should fracking boom. Jeff states:

These are tough times, and farmers shouldnt have their pockets picked by the gas industry, which only gives them a fraction of what their gas is worth while jeopardizing their and their neighbors water supply and property values.

In addition, they point out in their second documentary “Water Isn’t Water Anymore” that the chemicals used in fracking fluid are illegal in warfare under the Geneva Convention. So then, how is it permissible to use them near peoples homes?

When Jodi and Jeff aren’t putting all efforts into fighting fracking mayhem, they are building sustainable, efficient buildings and homes. Using off-grid electricity such as wind power and solar panels along with locally-sourced materials, they create unique, insulated straw bale/cargo shipping container structures (cool!). This couple is certainly all about taking matters of change into their own hands, and I admire that. They have a YouTube channel where you can watch most of their film “Water Isn’t Water Anymore”. Also, check out their website to order their first film, “All Fracked Up” and learn more about what they’re doing.

Let’s all hope enough public pressure will influence the NY Governor and Department of Environmental Conservation’s fracking decisions in 2012. Stay tuned…

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