Go to Top

Groups: Expect More WV-Style Water Disasters Unless Obama Signs Executive Order Protecting U.S. Water From Energy Development

West Virginia is Not Alone: 10 Similar "Sacrifice Zones" Identified in CO, LA, MA, ND, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX & VT; Warning That Water Will Be Subject to Repeated Disasters in Absence of Water/Energy Roadmap, Clear Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 30, 2014 — Sixty groups from across the United States called on President Obama today to issue an executive order protecting water availability and quality in the U.S. from haphazard energy exploration, warning that in the absence of a national water/energy “roadmap” there will be many more “sacrifice zones” like the coal-processing chemical spill in West Virginia that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 people and creating a federal state of emergency.

In making the case for the draft executive order they are presenting to the White House, the groups led by the Civil Society Institute (CSI) highlighted 10 West Virginia-style water “sacrifice zones” illustrating the danger of unbridled energy extraction in the following states:  Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont. (See particulars below.)

Available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org, the draft executive order would require: (1) the completion of a long-overdue national water census; (2) the creation of a “U.S. Water Budget”; and (3) a plan for a shift by 2030 from fossil fuel and nuclear power to clean energy, increased energy efficiency, and enhanced energy storage technologies in key watersheds identified by the US Geological Survey.

Janet Keating, executive director, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Huntington, WV, said: “The Freedom Industries tank farm, the source of the leak that contaminated the water supplies for people in nine Central West Virginia counties, would not exist if not for its role as part and parcel of the coal mining in that state.  While the headlines evoke the terror experienced by those in WV exposed to toxic chemicals, the fact is that these kinds of disasters will continue unless the nation’s leaders adopt a serious commitment to renewable energy, and begin the methodical process of dismantling an industry that has deprived our state’s residents of both health and safety for far too long.”

Grant Smith, senior energy analyst, Civil Society Institute, Newton, MA, said: “We need a national roadmap defining U.S. water and energy priorities.  Without this vital information and deliberate planning process, federal policy makers are flying blind when it comes to developing an energy policy reliant on the availability of fresh water. America should have an energy policy where people matter and that means protecting our access to clean and safe water.   The draft executive order outlines a process for getting that important job done now while there is still time to do so.”

Tracy Carluccio, deputy director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Bristol, PA, said: “The runaway consumption of water by shale gas development in the U.S. places huge demands on our watersheds, compromising the security of the drinking water they supply and the health of our communities. Through water pollution and water depletion, gas drilling and fracking translates into an outsized water footprint that is turning entire regions of the country into sacrifice zones.  We must assess what is being lost, critically evaluate the use, and get with a plan to replace water-intense energy extraction such as fracking with energy sources that support rather than squander our limited fresh water resources.” 

“Colorado is a headwater state,” said Bob Arrington, retired mechanical engineer, board member of the Western Colorado Congress, and a resident of a Battlement Mesa, CO, retirement community, which faces oil & gas development, and has been the site for studies considering the health impacts of fracking. “As such, we have a unique responsibility to protect our water resources to ensure that our neighbors downstream have access to clean and usable water. It’s as simple as that.”

10 “SACRIFICE ZONES”

The energy-related West Virginia threat to drinking water and human health is far from a unique problem in America.   Other “sacrifice zones” have cropped up at regular intervals in recent years:
SOUTH CAROLINA

Barnwell – January 2014

Plume of radioactivity is traveling through groundwater from a waste disposal facility.

PENNSYLVANIA

Statewide – 2008-present

The state Department of Environmental Protection has verified at least 161 cases of water supply contamination and thousands of violations of environmental permits by gas operators in the last five years.

NORTH DAKOTA

Casselton – December 2013

Two trains derailed causing several oil tankers to explode; 2,400 residents are told to evacuate.

OKLAHOMA

Bokoshe – November 2013

Citizens file class action suit against companies dumping frack waste water and contaminating drinking water.

COLORADO

Weld County – September 2013

Massive flooding releases oil and gas fracking chemicals into farms and drinking water.

TEXAS

Barnhart – August 2013

Community ran out of water due to oil and gas fracking.

MASSACHUSETTS

Plymouth – July 2013

Nuclear plant shuts down because of heatwave.

LOUISIANA

Greater Gulf Coast Area – June 2010

Within two months of the beginning of the British Petroleum spill, the Louisiana Health Department received 160 spill-related health complaints involving respiratory, eye and skin irritation.

VERMONT

Vermont – February 2010

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant leaking tritium into nearby waterways.

TENNESSEE

Kingston/Harriman – December 2008

Coal ash pond failure released 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash smothering 300 acres of land and dumping 300,000 cubic yards of sludge into the nearby river.

ABOUT THE EXECUTIVE ORDER

Titled “Identification of Critical Water Resources and Mitigation of Water Use Competition in Vulnerable Watersheds,” ACEA’s draft executive order for consideration by President Obama would do three things:

On May 24, 2013, leaders of the Committee for the American Clean Energy Agenda praised Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and 22 of her House colleagues for publicly urging U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to release a long-overdue “road map” of how to manage the development of U.S. energy resources without harming the quality and supply of water supplies. These water-related recommendations were required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and have yet to be submitted to Congress.

A January 2013 ACEA national opinion survey found that 92 percent of Americans think “U.S. energy planning and decision making” should be based on “a comprehensive understanding of what our national water resources are” – a national water roadmap that Congress asked for, but which was never produced. The national water roadmap attracts the support of 92 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 94 percent of Democrats. For more information about the full survey, go to http://www.americancleanenergyagenda.org/poll-water-is-high-priority-for-bipartisan-majority-of-americans/ on the Web.

In the US Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress instructed the Secretary of Energy submit a report assessing the state of water supply and demand and recommending future actions. DOE split the report into two parts: a general review of the connections between water and energy in the US and recommendations to offer Congress guidance in policy making.  The general review portion was submitted to Congress in 2007. However, the recommendations part, called the “Roadmap” has still not been released, though it was prepared some time ago.

ABOUT THE GROUPS

In alphabetical order, the full list of the endorsers of the Executive Order are: A Green Road; Allamakee County Protectors; Alliance for Appalachia; Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center; Beyond Nuclear; Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights; Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Christians for the Mountains; Citizens Allied for Safe Energy; Citizens’ Action Coalition; Citizens’ Environmental Coalition; Citizens for Environmental Stewardship; Citizens for Responsible Land Use; Citizens’ Greener Evanston; Civil Society Institute; Clean Vision Network; Coal River Mountain Watch; Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; Community Environmental Defense Council; Concerned Chippewa Citizens; Crawford Stewardship Project; Dakota Resource Council; Delaware Riverkeeper Network; Don’t Waste Michigan; The EDGE – Education Dreams for a Green Future; Environmental Working Group; Houston County Protectors; Information Network For Responsible Mining (INFORM); Kentuckians for the Commonwealth; Los Alamos Study Group; Loyalty to Our Land; Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force; New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light; Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; Otsego 2000; Partnership for Policy Integrity; People’s Oil & Gas Collaborative; Physicians, Scientists, & Engineers for Healthy Energy; Radiation and Public Health Project; Responsible Drilling Alliance; Rivers Network; Sane Energy Project; Save the Bluffs; Save Our Knapp Hills Alliance; Shale Justice Coalition; Shut Down Indian Point Now; Snake River Alliance; Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards; Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment; Vermont Citizens’ Action Network; Westchester 4 Change; West Michigan Jobs Group; Western Colorado Congress; Western Organization of Resource Councils;  Wild By Nature; Wisconsin Resources Protection Council; and World Stewardship Institute.

Based in Newton, MA, the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org) is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. Since 2003, CSI has conducted more than 25 major national and state-level surveys and reports on energy and auto issues, including climate change, wind and solar power, coal, nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing, energy efficiency, and hybrid autos.  In collaboration with the Environmental Working Group, the Civil Society Institute has initiated the American Clean Energy Agenda (http://www.americancleanenergyagenda.org/), an effort calling for bold steps to move the United States toward a clean, safe energy future, which has been endorsed by 120 organizations representing two million Americans.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Will Harwood, (703) 276-3255, or wharwood@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A streaming audio replay of this news event will be available as of 5 p.m. EST on January 30, 2014 at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.

1.7 million Americans are saying today that it is critically important that the next President embrace a truly clean energy revolution for electric power generation.