Multiple environmental groups hosted the No Toxic Trespass! No Fracking Way! Tour with renowned environmentalist Lois Gibbs last Thursday.
Gibbs, the founder and executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, spoke to the audience about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking.”
“You have a right to know what chemicals are being used in that facility,” she said. “You have a right to know what is being transported through your county. You have a right to know what is being stored. With every other industry, you have a right to know. With fracking, you do not know.”
Gibbs pointed out the economic and social costs of fracking, including poisoned water, reduced property value after fracking, the companies’ exemption from several laws, acres of cleared trees for fracking sites, radiation risks, high decibel levels from drills, an increase of STDs and unintended pregnancies in heavily-fracked areas, and a multitude of health risks.
Gibbs said that the fracking process can poison well water and cause toxic fumes, leading to nose bleeds, skin rashes, raw skin, neurological problems, migraines, cancer and reproductive problems. Additionally, she quoted statistics indicating larger amounts of truck crashes in highly-fracked areas. She also said that there is a 35 percent annual increase of disorderly conduct, a 62 percent annual increase of STDs and higher amounts of unintended pregnancies in more highly-fracked areas she said is directly related to the “man camps” of workers in fracking areas. “They’re not necessarily bad men, they’re bored men,” she said.
The primary goal of her tour is to help educate North Carolinians about the dangers of fracking before strategizing as a group. “It changes the whole context of your community,” she said.
Currently, both Anson County and North Carolina are under fracking moratoriums, but that can easily change, Gibbs warned. “Urgency is really the key,” Gibbs said. “People in Anson shouldn’t think the moratorium will keep [fracking companies] at bay, because they may come back… Because North Carolina has a moratorium in place, you guys have a small window. We need to educate people and get them to extend the moratorium or put another in place.”
For those interested in getting more education on fracking or getting involved in the anti-fracking effort, Gibbs suggests community members get involved with local groups. “People can get involved in Pee Dee WALL because it’s part of a larger network and they can be plugged in and helpful later down the road.”
The event was sponsored by Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Pee Dee WALL, Cumnock Preservation Association, and No Fracking in Stokes. Some of these groups are planning to present a letter to the Anson County Commissioners to request that they place a ban on fracking waste disposal in North Carolina.
Gibbs has appeared on many television and radio shows including 60 Minutes, Oprah Winfrey, The Today Show, and others. CBS produced a two-hour prime-time movie about Gibbs’ life entitled “Lois Gibbs: The Love Canal Story” starring Marsha Mason. She has also received multiple awards, including a 2003 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and an honorary Ph.D. from the State University of New York.