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The Fracking Endgame

Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos


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growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.
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Fight like you live here.


Copyright © June 2019 by Food & Water Watch. All rights reserved.
This report can be viewed or downloaded at foodandwaterwatch.org.
Letter From Wenonah Hauter
Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

I
n 2009, when few outside of the fossil fuel industry had heard
the term “fracking,” we at Food & Water Watch began to receive
many questions from our supporters about its impact on
water resources. Over the next two years, we took a close look at
this burgeoning oil and gas drilling technique that was suddenly
reshaping rural landscapes, and reshaping America’s energy
landscape as well. What we found was startling: fracking posed an
immense threat to drinking water, and had already caused serious
contamination events and subsequent human health impacts in numerous states
across the country. So, in 2011, we did the prudent thing: we called for a ban on
IUDFNLQJHYHU\ZKHUHEHFRPLQJWKHȴUVWQDWLRQDORUJDQL]DWLRQLQ$PHULFDWRWDNH
this bold, uncompromised stand.
%\VFRUHVRIVWXGLHVDQGUHSRUWVKDGEHHQSXEOLVKHGFRQȴUPLQJDOONLQGV
RIKD]DUGVDQGWKUHDWVDVVRFLDWHGZLWKIUDFNLQJGULQNLQJZDWHUFRQWDPLQDWLRQ
ZLWKFDQFHUFDXVLQJFKHPLFDOVOLNHEHQ]HQHDLUSROOXWLRQWKDWSRVHVUHVSLUDWRU\
KHDOWKULVNVHVSHFLDOO\WRFKLOGUHQZLWKDVWKPDDFFLGHQWVDQGH[SORVLRQVWR[LF
ZDVWHDFFXPXODWLRQDQGHYHQLQFUHDVHGFULPHUDWHVLQDUHDVZKHUHIUDFNLQJZDV
booming. Soon, studies were connecting low-birthweight babies with proximity
to fracking sites. But perhaps most alarming was the mounting evidence of frack-
ing’s impact on our climate. Natural gas, touted as a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy
future, was actually helping to tip the scales of climate stability past the point of no
return. Fracked gas was found to be a climate killer.
1RZDVD\HDUIUDFNLQJERRPKDVHEEHGDQGȵRZHGDVFRXQWOHVVIDPLOLHVDQG
communities have borne the costs of this industry through disruption, displace-
ment, sickness and even death, and as our planet hangs on the precipice of climate
catastrophe, fossil fuel corporations and their elected enablers are seeking to turn
up the pace of new fracking projects once again.
Our latest research shows that their endgame is a world locked into plastics, pollu-
tion and climate chaos. In addition to the buildout of a growing pipeline network,
we’ve discovered that more than 700 new facilities have been built or proposed to
FDSLWDOL]HR΍RIDJOXWRIFKHDSIUDFNHGJDV
)URPSHWURFKHPLFDOIDFLOLWLHVWRJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWVDQGOLTXHȴHGQDWXUDOJDV
export terminals, these new projects would commit America to another genera-
tion of dependence on fossil fuels. These new projects would bring dangerous air
pollutants associated with heightened cancer risks and respiratory illnesses, and
ZRXOGGLVSURSRUWLRQDWHO\D΍HFWORZHULQFRPHFRPPXQLWLHVDQGFRPPXQLWLHVRI
color where they are most commonly located.
These projects aren’t just associated with health and safety risks: if even a fraction
of them come to fruition, they will condemn the planet to a future of climate chaos.
:KLOHWKHLQȵXHQFHRIWKHRLODQGJDVLQGXVWU\LVLPPHQVHDQGWKHZRUNDKHDGZLOO
be hard, we can stop this onslaught from the fossil fuel industry. The grassroots
movement to reject dirty energy has banned fracking in New York and Maryland
DQGVWRSSHGRUGHOD\HGGR]HQVRIIRVVLOIXHOLQIUDVWUXFWXUHSURMHFWVWKDWZRXOG
KDYHWXUQHGIURQWOLQHFRPPXQLWLHVLQWRVDFULȴFH]RQHVSROOXWLQJDLUZDWHUDQGWKH
climate.
By 2016, polling showed that more than half of Americans disapproved of fracking.
And, as we head into the 2020 presidential elections, climate change is emerging
as a top issue among Democratic voters. There is hope for a better world without
fracking, and that starts with strong policies that address our systemic depen-
dence on the fossil fuels that are smothering our planet in plastic and pollution.
Every day, as people power multiplies, we are working together to stop new fossil
fuel development and to promote a rapid transition to a clean, just and equitable
UHQHZDEOHHQHUJ\IXWXUHΖWȇVWLPHWRȴJKWOLNHZHOLYHKHUH

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director


The Fracking Endgame
Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Background: Three Industries Prop Up Financially Faltering Fracking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Petrochemical Manufacturing and Plastics Production . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
New investments to turn fracked gas into petrochemicals and plastics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Appalachia is targeted to become the new epicenter of petrochemical development . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Expanding the petrochemical and plastics sectors in Texas and Louisiana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Expanding plastics industry pumps up pollution threats to nearby communities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Plastic pollution has a growing footprint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Exporting Fracked Natural Gas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The LNG export boom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
New and planned LNG export facilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Liquefaction and export terminals threaten communities with pollution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
A Wave of New Fracked Gas Power Plants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
7KHJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWERRP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Natural gas plants are no climate solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Conclusion: Stopping Dirty Infrastructure Now Is the Only Way to Avoid a Fracked Future . . . . 15
Executive Summary
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QDWXUDOJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV7KHVHLQGXVWULHVJDLQ
In the mid-2000s, the oil and gas industry acceler- ORZSULFHGVXSSOLHVDQGIRUPDV\PELRWLFDOO\SURȴWDEOH
ated the use of the controversial hydraulic fracturing business alliance with the fracking industry. These
(“fracking”) technique to extract formerly inaccessible industries are rapidly expanding:
natural gas from shale rock and other geologic forma- • Proliferation of plastics plants to capitalize on
tions. Fracking has threatened communities near fracking: Industry experts project that the plastics
drilling rigs with water pollution, air emissions and industry will have added 28 million tons of plastic
ecosystem degradation. production between 2011 and 2020, and more
Despite the risks and ecological destruction, fracking than $202 billion is slated to be invested in 333
KDVVSUHDGOLNHZLOGȴUH%HWZHHQDQG1RYHPEHU new facilities and expansions to take advantage of
2018, the number of gas wells rose by more than half to fracked gas, including 20 ethylene crackers to turn
approximately 550,000 drilling rigs.1 Fracked gas produc- shale gas into feedstock for plastics manufacturing
WLRQVXUJHGPRUHWKDQIROGIURPWRWKHȴUVW plants.
half of 2018 when it reached an average of 56.3 billion • Pushing natural gas exports to raise domestic
cubic feet per day.2 All this additional gas has pushed prices: The industry and the Trump administration
UHDOLQȵDWLRQDGMXVWHGQDWXUDOJDVSULFHVWRWKHLUORZHVW are promoting LNG exports to reduce the domestic
levels in decades, now 60 percent lower than in 2008.3 gas supply and raise U.S. natural gas prices. In 2018,
there were only 3 active LNG export facilities in the
Persistently low prices have challenged the economic
contiguous United States, but 22 more were either
viability of the fracking industry’s continuous and
already being built or were approved for construc-
VWHDG\H[SDQVLRQ0DQ\ȴUPVDUHVSHQGLQJPRUHRQ
tion, and another 22 were pending federal review.
exploration and drilling than they earn from gas sales.
The business solution to the oversupply and low prices • :DYHRIQHZIUDFNHGJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWVThe
ZDVWRȴQGDQGSURPRWHQHZLQGXVWU\SDUWQHUVKLSV SRZHULQGXVWU\KDVQHZJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV
to absorb the gas glut, tighten up supplies and raise under development for 2018 to 2022, and gas
prices enough to keep expanding fracking’s footprint. deliveries to power plants rose 57 percent between
2006 (before the fracking boom) and 2017. The
7KUHHLQGXVWULDOSDUWQHUVVWHSSHGXSWRFDSLWDOL]HRQ JDVȴUHGJHQHUDWLRQFDSDFLW\IURPSODQWVDGGHG
low gas prices: the petrochemical and plastics indus- in 2017 and 2018 alone could power 24 million U.S.
tries that use natural gas liquids as a key feedstock for households, an expansion that is creating a power
WKHLUPDQXIDFWXULQJJDVH[SRUWHUVEXLOGLQJOLTXHȴHG surplus in some areas.

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2 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


These industries are throwing an economic lifeline to Wall Street investor-funded U.S. fracking produced an
the fracking industry. Without the buildout of fracked oversupply of cheap gas and gas byproducts in the past
gas infrastructure, the fracking industry would likely few years.8 In 2017, $84 billion was sunk into fracking
IDFHPRUHVHYHUHHFRQRPLFKHDGZLQGVDQGȴQGLWPRUH investments, helping the United States produce a
GLɝFXOWWRIXQGGULOOLQJDQGH[SORUDWLRQSURMHFWV record amount of natural gas.9 Fracked gas production
was expected to set new records in 2018, and the U.S.
%XWDVWKHVHLQGXVWULHVSURSXSWKHLUPXWXDOSURȴWV
Department of Energy (DOE) predicted that gas produc-
they are proliferating pollution. Petrochemical plants,
tion would grow by nearly a third by 2025.10
JDVOLTXHIDFWLRQIDFLOLWLHVDQGJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV
emit air and climate pollution. Far from being a cleaner With the help of lax regulators and generous govern-
power source, natural gas is no climate solution. ment handouts, natural gas is being turned into
The power plants emit greenhouse gases and other ZDVWHIXOSODVWLFVEXUQHGLQQHZJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV
KD]DUGRXVDLUSROOXWDQWVDQGZLGHVSUHDGOHDNVRIWKH and dumped into overseas markets. Although condi-
potent climate gas methane from gas infrastructure tions appear ripe for another crash, investors continue
such as pipelines mean that declining power plant pumping billions into new drilling and exploration.11
emissions are outweighed by increased greenhouse gas Some government policies are priming the fracking
emissions from methane leaks. industry pump by giving gas, petrochemical and pipe-
line companies new tax breaks and subsidies.12
The United States needs to rapidly shift to 100 percent
clean, renewable energy to curb the worst impacts Despite soaring production, shale companies are not
of climate catastrophe. The fossil fuel infrastructure UHDSLQJKXJHSURȴWV13 The last few years have delivered
that is currently planned and under construction will a series of busts for the industry. A decade ago the gas
KDYHDQH΍HFWLYHOLIHVSDQIDUORQJHUWKDQWKHSRLQW industry was struggling because of shortages, but in
when experts agree that the world must shed all 2012 surplus gas sent the industry on a quest for new
fossil fuels, meaning that these stranded assets will buyers to soak up its excess gas supplies.14 In 2014, a
be wasted economic investments.4 But the fracking large glut began to suppress prices and led to a wave of
industry’s partnership with the triple threat of the EDQNUXSWFLHVE\WKHHQGRIFRQWLQXHGSURGXFWLRQ
plastics industry, gas exporters and power companies DPLGDQRYHUVDWXUDWHGPDUNHWSXVKHGUHDOLQȵDWLRQ
is buttressing the climate-destroying expansion of adjusted natural gas prices to all-time record lows.15
fracking in the United States. From 2008 to 2017, the real wholesale price for natural
gas fell by 60 percent as total gas production rose.16
Background: Three Industries Prop Up 3HUVLVWHQWO\ORZSULFHVKDYHEHGHYLOHGWKHȴQDQFLDO
Financially Faltering Fracking success of fracking companies. Yet fracking companies
continued to pump gas from wells, even as some
The rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)
FRPSDQLHVODLGR΍ZRUNHUVDQGGHFODUHGEDQNUXSWF\17
created a gas glut that has driven real gas prices to the
ΖQWKHȴUVWVL[PRQWKVRIWKHELJJHVWIUDFNLQJ
lowest levels in decades. 5 Now frackers are producing
ȴUPVORVWELOOLRQȃWKH\VSHQWPRUHRQQHZGULOOLQJ
more gas than can be used — the fracked gas supply
and other projects than they earned selling gas.18
exceeds demand.6 This economic disconnect is bad for
business, but fracking has been an even bigger environ- In Texas, frackers have called current gas production
mental disaster for communities and the planet. “unprecedented.”19 In West Texas’ Permian Basin,
IUDFNLQJFRPSDQLHVSURȴWIURPWKHRLOWKH\SURGXFHEXW
The fracking industry continues to push full steam ahead
without a market for the surplus gas, some of it has been
instead of moving away from the dangerous drilling tech-
GLVSRVHGRIWKURXJKȵDULQJDQGYHQWLQJ EXUQLQJRUMXVW
QLTXH7KHVROXWLRQWRWKHIUDFNHUVȇȴQDQFLDOIUXVWUDWLRQV
releasing the gas into the atmosphere) or sold at near-
are new outlets (markets) for fracked gas. Now other
]HURSULFHV20 In the Appalachian Basin, the Marcellus
industrial partners are riding to the fracking industry’s
and Utica shale plays are expected to help double U.S.
rescue to push for new infrastructure — petrochemical
shale gas production by 2040, but regional demand is
DQGSODVWLFVPDQXIDFWXULQJIDFLOLWLHVJDVȴUHGSRZHU
struggling to keep up.21 Fracking proponents admit that,
plants and LNG export terminals — to sop up surplus
“Without infrastructure, you have nothing.”22
gas, support fracking and raise gas prices.7

The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 3
The fracking industry needs new demand sources to Natural gas is composed primarily of the greenhouse
absorb excess gas to justify more drilling. 23 Fracking gas methane, which typically is delivered by utility
can only expand at its breakneck pace if the overabun- FRPSDQLHVIRUUHVLGHQWLDOKHDWLQJDQGWRIXHOJDVȴUHG
GDQFHRIORZSULFHGJDVFDQEHFRPHSURȴWDEOHWKURXJK power plants. 27 In addition to this “dry” gas, some shale
new markets (exports), new end-users (petrochemical plays — especially the Utica and Marcellus shale gas
and power plants) or new products (plastics) to drive reserves underlying vast portions of northeastern
up gas demand.24 Appalachia — contain what the industry calls “wet”
natural gas. 28 Wet natural gas contains higher concen-
7KHVHQHZLQGXVWULDOSDUWQHUVDUHHDJHUWRFDSLWDOL]HRQ
trations of natural gas liquids (NGLs) — predominantly
cheap gas supplies. Together, the fracking industry, plas-
ethane but also propane, butane, isobutane and
tics and petrochemical manufacturers, gas exporters
pentanes — which are the raw materials for manufac-
and electric power companies are creating mutually
turing petrochemicals. 29
SURȴWDEOHDQGSROOXWLQJSDUWQHUVKLSV7KH\IRUPD
symbiotic business relationship: the fracking industry Companies process raw natural gas into dry gas and
gets new buyers, and the petrochemical, power plant WKHGL΍HUHQWFRQVWLWXHQW1*/VVXFKDVHWKDQH2QFH
DQGH[SRUWLQJȴUPVJHWQHZORZSULFHGVXSSOLHV isolated, ethane is transported to a type of petro-
chemical facility known as a cracker plant that uses
Petrochemical Manufacturing steam or heat to “crack” ethane into ethylene, the most

and Plastics Production frequently produced petrochemical that is converted


into the most common type of plastic, polyethylene. 30
Fracking has produced an oversupply of cheap ethane, Ethylene goes through a chemical procedure called
a hydrocarbon present in natural gas that has been a SRO\PHUL]DWLRQWRFRQYHUWLWLQWRVPDOOSODVWLFSHOOHWV
boon for the plastics industry, which relies on petro- or the polyethylene resin used to manufacture plastic
chemical manufacturing to turn ethane into plastics.25 products. 31
More fracking means more low-cost ethane, and more
In November 2013, representatives from the oil and
plastics and petrochemical plants can eat up excess
gas, petrochemical and plastics industries convened a
gas to justify more drilling.26 The new partnership has
WKUHHGD\VXPPLWȃWKHȴUVWRILWVNLQGȃWRDGGUHVV
promoted a plastics manufacturing building boom that
the “opportunities and challenges of a ‘coming renais-
threatens communities and the environment near the
sance’ in North American plastics.”32 According to
new factories as well as the global ecology.

4 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


Plastics News, fracking “represents a once-in-a-genera-
tion opportunity” for the plastics industry. 33 A renewed
push for plastics manufacturing provides the fracking
industry with a polluting partner to absorb the ever-
increasing quantity of fracked natural gas. 34

New investments to turn fracked gas


into petrochemicals and plastics
Investors have been lining up to build new factories
that transform fracking byproducts into plastics. 35
Beginning in 2012, chemical companies started aggres-
sively investing in petrochemical plants focused on
tapping the gas glut. 36 Between 2011 and 2017, U.S.
petrochemical production added 14 million tons of
production capacity — by 2020, the United States
will add another 14 million tons. 37 More than 20 new
crackers and ethylene production expansion projects
have been proposed in the country because of the
natural gas boom. 38

In 2016, the chemical industry was already slated


to spend over $164 billion on 264 new facilities and
H[SDQVLRQSURMHFWVVSHFLȴFDOO\WRWDNHDGYDQWDJH W,KdKͳzΞK&&/K&'KsZEKZdKDtK>&ͬ&>/<Z͘KD

of shale gas. 39 By 2018, the numbers had climbed


to $202 billion on 333 facilities.40 This investment is petrochemical plants (including ethane crackers) and
targeted primarily for Appalachia and the Gulf Coast, plastics facilities. 44
and is projected to drive a 40 percent increase in
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) estimates that
global plastics production over the next decade. 41
chemical industries and plastics industries will invest

Appalachia is targeted to become the new $35.8 billion for central Appalachia’s regional petro-
chemical and plastic manufacturing facilities and large
epicenter of petrochemical development underground gas storage facility.45 The combination
The proposed industrial solution to alleviate the of shale gas production and petrochemical facilities
Marcellus and Utica shale gas glut is to turn the would create what Crain’s Cleveland Business called “an
Tri-State area of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia ethane tsunami.”46
into a petrochemical epicenter. The key proposed
7KHSHWURFKHPLFDOSXVKDOVRLQFOXGHVDWRWDORIȴYH
facility includes the $10 billion Appalachian Storage and
proposed ethane crackers in West Virginia, Ohio
Trading Hub, which would include a large underground
and Pennsylvania, but the ACC suggests that the
NGL storage facility and a web of interconnected
Appalachian basin could support up to nine crackers.47
pipeline infrastructure to connect to petrochemical
Already under construction in western Pennsylvania is
plants and plastics factories in the Tri-State region —
Shell’s $6 billion petrochemical facility consisting of an
potentially extending into eastern Kentucky (which sits
ethane cracker and a polyethylene unit to make plas-
atop the Rogersville shale gas reserve). 42
tics.48 Shell also has proposed a 97-mile Falcon Ethane
The actual storage facility would be the cornerstone Pipeline that would run through Ohio, West Virginia
of the entire petrochemical development plan, and Pennsylvania to deliver ethane to the cracker. 49
ZKLFKFRXOGLQFHQWLYL]HDQGGUDZLQDGGLWLRQDOSHWUR- A similar investment includes a partnership between
chemical projects to the region. 43 The storage facility a Thai government-owned oil company and a South
would provide a steady stream of ethane to nearby Korean construction company with petrochemical
crackers and act as a trading post for exploration and expertise to build a $10 billion ethane cracker in
production companies looking to sell their NGLs to Belmont County, Ohio. 50

The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 5
construction during 2015. 56 The additional petro-
Expanding the petrochemical and chemical manufacturing will compound local pollution
plastics sectors in Texas and Louisiana generated by existing large facilities, falling largely on
Tumbling NGL prices from an overproduction of shale PDUJLQDOL]HGFRPPXQLWLHV 57
gas in the Gulf Coast has also spurred a huge new Chemical investment, often greased by substantial
wave of investment in Texas and Louisiana, which is JRYHUQPHQWKDQGRXWVLVDOVRȵRZLQJLQWR/RXLVLDQD
already the epicenter of U.S. petrochemical and plas- to build facilities largely against the wishes of local
tics manufacturing that produces half of the nation’s residents. 58 Formosa Petrochemical Corporation will
petrochemicals. 51 receive millions of dollars in tax subsidies to build
The region exported 7 billion pounds of plastic in 2018, a $9.4 billion, 2,400-acre petrochemical complex in
and the abundance of cheap fracked gas will drive an St. James Parish. 59 Additionally, Sasol is building a
estimated $142 billion in petrochemical investment $11.1 billion ethane cracker in southwest Louisiana. 60
to the region.52 By 2017, an estimated $71 billion was Wanhua Chemical Group has announced plans to
plowed into 134 Texas projects alone. 53 locate a $1.12 billion facility in Louisiana.61 Yunhuang
Chemical is in the process of building a $1.85 billion
Projects in the Gulf Coast include billions of dollars Louisiana chemical complex. 62
poured into petrochemical facility expansions in
Baytown and Mont Belvieu, Texas. 54 Exxon and the Expanding plastics industry pumps up
chemical company Sabic are also building a $9.3 billion
petrochemical complex in Corpus Christi, which is
pollution threats to nearby communities
VODWHGWRRSHQLQLWZRXOGEHWKHELJJHVWLQWKH The development of new petrochemical facilities,
world, creating nearly 4 billion pounds of ethylene crackers and plastics plants will compound the existing
annually. 55 The mega-facility is just one project in pollution problems where the industry is expanding
a Corpus Christi plastics building boom, with over and spread it to new areas where new projects are
$28 billion in new projects either planned or under developed, which would worsen existing air quality and
public health problems. The Gulf Coast has some of the

W,KdKͳEΞZ/ZKZ>ͬ&>/<Z͘KD

6 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


highest pollution levels and pollution-related illnesses Industrial pollution, including emissions from chemical
and diseases,63 and the Tri-State region already faces and plastics facilities, disproportionately impacts
stark environmental and associated public health chal- the health of nearby communities that often lack
lenges from a century of industrial pollution.64 WKHUHVRXUFHVWRȴJKWEDFNLQFOXGLQJFRPPXQLWLHV
of color and lower-income, economically depressed
Plants that convert natural gas into petrochemicals
and less educated communities, which already tend
are known to emit massive amounts of air and climate
to have worse health outcomes than whiter, more
pollutants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocar-
DɞXHQWFRPPXQLWLHV76 The disproportionate location
ERQVFDUERQGLR[LGHR]RQHFUHDWLQJYRODWLOHRUJDQLF
of polluters in communities of color and lower-income
FRPSRXQGV VXFKDVEHQ]HQHDQGWROXHQH DQG
areas worsens these toxic health and environmental
nitrogen oxides.65 These plants pump out mountains of
burdens.77
toxic plastics.66
This environmental injustice has been especially
A 2012 Houston Advanced Research Center study of
pronounced in both Texas and Louisiana. There
local petrochemical pollution found that “large petro-
were 16 chemical plants within a three-mile radius
FKHPLFDOȵDUHVOHDGWRYHU\UDSLGR]RQHIRUPDWLRQ
of the Manchester-Harrisburg neighborhood, one
that, if properly detected, would make attainment of
of Houston’s lower-income communities of color.78
WKHFXUUHQWIHGHUDOR]RQHVWDQGDUGYHU\GLɝFXOWLQ
One study even found that children living within two
Houston.”677KLVSHWURFKHPLFDOȵDULQJDOVRFDQH[SRVH
miles of the Houston Ship Channel, where many
nearby communities to high levels of formaldehyde, a
petrochemical plants are located, have a 56 percent
FDUFLQRJHQLFDLUSROOXWDQWDQGR]RQHSUHFXUVRU68
greater chance of developing leukemia than children
3URORQJHGFRQWDFWZLWKJURXQGOHYHOR]RQHLVOLQNHGWR living 10 miles away.79 And Louisiana’s historically
asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. African-American community of Mossville has been
When mixed with particulate matter, which has been surrounded by 14 industrial facilities — including a
linked to various cancers, smog can form.69 In addi- FRDOȴUHGSRZHUSODQWRLOUHȴQHU\DQGVHYHUDOSHWUR-
tion to asthma, long-term exposure to smog has been chemical facilities — annually releasing millions of tons
connected to premature deaths in adults and to low of toxins into the water, air and land, including high
birthweight in babies.70 Further, chronic exposure to air levels of cancer-causing substances. 80
pollution can cause various illnesses, including cogni-
WLYHGHȴFLWV71 Several studies have demonstrated that Plastic pollution has a growing footprint
people’s exposure to petrochemical facility pollutants The petrochemical boom would ramp up plastics
is associated with heightened cancer risks, acute irrita- SURGXFWLRQJHQHUDWLQJQRWRQO\LQGXVWU\SURȴWVEXW
tive symptoms (such as nausea and eye and throat also mountains of plastic waste. More than half of
irritation) and respiratory-related illnesses, especially the new raw plastic resins produced in the United
for children.72 States are slated for export to be manufactured into
The Ohio River Valley, where the Appalachian Storage plastic products.81 The majority of the plastics industry
and Trading Hub is proposed, has persistent air pollu- manufactures packaging, which creates materials
tion problems that threaten the health of residents. that are immediately thrown away.82 Across the globe,
The University of Pittsburgh Center for Healthy each person discards 110 pounds of plastic annually. 83
(QYLURQPHQWVDQG&RPPXQLWLHVLGHQWLȴHGWKH2KLR Of the 18.3 trillion pounds of plastics produced since
River Valley as having hotspots of criteria air pollut- 1950, only approximately 9 percent has been recycled
ants from the northern West Virginia panhandle to the — meaning that more than 16 trillion pounds has been
southern Ohio-West Virginia border.73 Several Ohio, WRVVHGLQWRODQGȴOOVOLWWHUHGLQWRWKHHQYLURQPHQWRU
Pennsylvania and West Virginia communities were incinerated.84
UDQNHGDPRQJWKHPRVWSROOXWHGDUHDVIRUR]RQHDQG In 2010 alone, nearly 200 coastal countries generated
particulate matter by the American Lung Association, over 600 billion pounds of plastic waste, with 11 billion
including Beaver County where one cracker is being to 28 billion pounds ending up in the oceans.85 This
built.74 Belmont County, Ohio, the proposed site litter is creating and adding to colossal masses of plastic
for another cracker, already has been plagued with JDUEDJHȵRDWLQJLQRXURFHDQVΖQWKHFHQWUDO3DFLȴF
“intense” emissions from shale gas development.75 Ocean, four major ocean currents have brought this

The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 7
the world, enabling frackers to prop up prices and
to support continued exploration and overpro-
duction.96 These exports super-charge additional
fracking, as 80 percent of the increased exports will
EHȴOOHGE\JDVIURPQHZO\GULOOHGZHOOVȃRWKHU-
wise, that gas would have remained underground.97
Some gas is exported by pipeline or truck to Mexico
and Canada, and the rest is shipped by tanker from
export terminals to reach overseas markets.98

Natural gas is almost impossible to ship in its gaseous


state. Super-cooling natural gas converts it to a liquid
that takes up 600 times less volume, making it possible
WRORDGWKH/1*RQWRWDQNHUVZKHQLWLVXQORDGHGLWLV
waste into a slow-moving “plastic soup.” 86 Dubbed the heated to return it to a gas.99
*UHDW3DFLȴF*DUEDJH3DWFKWKHZRUOGȇVODUJHVWGXPSLV
The technical capacity to liquefy and ship natural
IRXUWLPHVWKHVL]HRI&DOLIRUQLD87
gas has existed for quite some time, but the energy-
7KLVSROOXWLRQLVDVLJQLȴFDQWWKUHDWWRPDULQHELRGL- LQWHQVLYHDQGH[SHQVLYHSURFHVVKDVEHHQGLɝFXOWWR
versity, impacting over 600 marine species.88 Plastic execute in an often volatile and uncertain gas market.
GHEULVIUHTXHQWO\ȵRDWVDWWKHRFHDQȇVVXUIDFHȃ LNG terminals such as Dominion Energy’s Cove Point
mixing with food sources — where it entangles, chokes facility in Maryland were originally built to import LNG
or is consumed by wildlife.89 As plastic breaks into after the 1970s oil crisis.100 As domestic gas prices fell, it
smaller pieces it releases the potent greenhouse gases was not economically viable to import and convert LNG
ethylene and methane.90 Ingesting resultant microplas- back into a gas. When the fracking boom made imports
tics is extremely harmful to aquatic life and seabirds.91 obsolete, Cove Point was retroȴWWHGWRexport natural
Studies have found microplastics, tiny plastic frag- gas.101 The rise of fracking has renewed industry
ments degraded from plastic litter, in open oceans, promotion of LNG exports to prop up prices.102
freshwater sources, lake sediments, river beds and the
deepest ocean trenches.92 Between 2007 and 2013, an The LNG export boom
estimated 538 million pounds of plastic particles was
The U.S. gas industry is promoting exports to maintain
found on the oceans’ surface — from coastal Australia
IUDFNLQJȇVSURȴWDELOLW\ZKLFKZRXOGGULYHDGGLWLRQDO
to the Mediterranean Sea. 93
drilling and gas extraction.1037KHȴUVW/1*H[SRUW

Exporting Fracked Natural Gas shipment from the lower 48 states departed from
Cheniere’s Sabine Pass terminal in February 2016.104
The basic economic problem for the fracking industry The surplus of fracked gas quickly set the stage for an
is that overproduction has created a gas glut that export boom, making the United States a net exporter
greatly outpaces the domestic demand. One simple of natural gas (where exports exceed imports) in 2017
way to tighten up domestic supplies is to export as IRUWKHȴUVWWLPHVLQFHȃMXVWD\HDUDIWHUWKHȴUVW
PXFKJDVDVSRVVLEOHRɞRDGLQJH[FHVVJDVVXSSOLHVWR LNG tanker left port.105
raise domestic prices. It should be noted that this is a
The Trump administration has been pushing exports
VZLIWUHYHUVDORIWKHHQHUJ\LQGHSHQGHQFHMXVWLȴFDWLRQ
by trying to rush the approvals of new LNG export
for environmentally destructive fracking. The industry
facilities.106 Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said that,
argued that fracking was necessary to foster energy
“My job is to sell a lot of [LNG] around the world” and
independence,94 but now it is promoting exports (even
has called opposition to fossil fuels “immoral.”107
though by 2018 United States remained a net importer
of fossil fuels).95 In 2017, Trump’s then top economic adviser, Gary
Cohn, called for a new re-review of the proposed
As a result, the industry and its political allies —
Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Oregon, which was
including the Trump administration — have been
previously rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory
pushing increased shipments of natural gas across
Commission (FERC) in 2016 because the facility would

8 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


QRWIXOȴOO)(5&ȇVSXEOLFQHHGUHTXLUHPHQW EHFDXVH Petroleum Institute, “the current NAFTA agreement
WKHSURMHFWRQO\EHQHȴWHGWKHH[SRUWLQJFRPSDQ\QRW works for the oil and gas industry.”112 The Trump-
U.S. consumers.)108 The DOE determines whether LNG renegotiated NAFTA maintained the pro-petroleum
export applications to countries that are not part of industry perspective, and the Washington Post reported
U.S. free trade agreements are in the public interest that the new NAFTA delivered a “big win” to oil
based on economic and environmental criteria.109 FERC companies.113
has jurisdiction over siting, construction and opera-
By 2016, energy companies had proposed over $44 billion
tion of U.S. facilities and is tasked with performing
worth of new LNG export terminals.114 In 2018, there
environmental impact assessments under the National
were only 3 active LNG export facilities in the contig-
Environmental Policy Act.110
uous United States, but 22 were either already being
Trade deals such as the North American Free Trade built or were approved for construction, and another
Agreement (NAFTA) can make it easier to rubber 22 were pending federal review either with the DOE or
stamp exports and facilitate the approval of export FERC (see Map).115
terminal projects. The Jordan Cove project needed to
demonstrate that it met a public need because the New and planned LNG export facilities
exports were bound for Asian nations that do not
The United States now has the capacity to liquefy and
have free trade agreements with the United States.
export 3.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day,
Exports destined for countries that are parties to free
about 5 percent of U.S. gas production.116 If this gas
trade agreements with the United States are exempt
were delivered to power plants, it would be enough
from environmental evaluation and presumed to be
to power 21.4 million homes, the equivalent of about
“in the public interest.”111 According to the American
17 percent of U.S. households.117 Most of the ramped-up

FIG. 1 • Approved, Pending and Existing LNG Export Terminals, as of 2018

LNG Terminals Status


Approved Pending Existing

SOURCE: Map based on data from U.S. Department of Energy. “Long Term Applications Received by the DOE/FE to Export. Domestically Produced LNG From the Lower-48
6WDWHVȋ'HFHPEHU86)HGHUDO(QHUJ\5HJXODWRU\&RPPLVVLRQȊ1RUWK$PHULFDQ/1*ΖPSRUW([SRUW7HUPLQDOVȃ([LVWLQJȋ-XO\

The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 9
exports came from capacity expansions at Cove Point R΍HULQJ Ζ32 WRSXPSFDSLWDOLQWRLWVJURZLQJIUDFNLQJ
and at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass export facility that supplied LNG empire.1327KHFRPSDQ\OLTXHȴHVQDWXUDO
helped LNG exports quadruple between 2016 and 2017.118 gas at its facility in Miami and intends to build two
new liquefaction facilities in northern Pennsylvania
With continued investment in export terminals and LNG
to export gas from the Marcellus shale.133 These facili-
shipping to overseas markets, export capacity could
ties link into New Fortress’ global ambitions, supple-
nearly triple to 9.6 billion cubic feet per day by 2020,
menting the company’s active LNG terminals in Jamaica
making the United States the third largest LNG exporter,
and a planned terminal in Mexico, as well as potentially
behind Qatar and Australia.119 By 2040, if industry invest-
supplying its planned $581 million LNG import facility
ments and projections prove accurate, LNG exports
in Ireland.134
could explode to 30.7 billion cubic feet per day, which
would amount to more than a quarter of the DOE’s Four additional facilities are slated to come online by
projection for the U.S. gas supply.120 However, exports the end of 2019.135 These include Kinder Morgan’s Elba
PD\EHDWHPSRUDU\ȴ[UDWKHUWKDQDORQJWHUPVRXUFH Island LNG facility in Georgia, Sempra LNG’s Cameron
RIGHPDQGH[SHUWVDUHDOUHDG\SUHGLFWLQJDQRYHU-
supply of LNG globally as early as the mid-2020s.121

&KHQLHUH(QHUJ\ȇV6DELQH3DVVZDVWKHȴUVWIDFLOLW\LQ The globalized market for


the lower 48 states to ship LNG overseas, delivering
JDVWR%UD]LOLQ122 The company had no prior track
NGLs is ramping up worldwide
record in running LNG facilities and repeatedly bene- plastics manufacturing
ȴWHGIURPFORVHUHODWLRQVKLSVZLWKUHJXODWRUV123 Its
The Appalachian and Gulf Coast fracking industries
ERDUGKDVLQFOXGHGDIRUPHUKLJKOHYHO'2(RɝFLDODQG are shipping NGLs to international markets as well.
a FERC commissioner.124 In 2017, Cheniere had three top The Gulf is already a known hub for gas exports,
IRUPHU2EDPDFOLPDWHDQGHQHUJ\RɝFLDOVLQOXFUDWLYH which helps sop up surplus gas and boost prices
executive roles at the company.125 (see “Exports” below).137 NGL exports, primarily to
China and Japan, are currently at record highs.138
The facility was whisked through the federal approval Energy Transfer Partners and Satellite Petrochem-
process. In 2011, after a short nine-month review, the ical aim to widen the pipeline to China by building
'2(JUDQWHGWKHQHFHVVDU\DXWKRUL]DWLRQVDQGLQ a new ethane export terminal on the Gulf Coast
6DELQH3DVVEHFDPHWKHȴUVW/1*H[SRUWSURMHFW capable of transporting at least 6.3 million gallons of
to clear FERC’s environmental review.126 Not only did NGLs a day by 2020.139
LWEHQHȴWIURPDVSHHG\SHUPLWWLQJSURFHVVEXWWKH Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners LP also
project received nearly $1.7 billion in tax subsidies, a is expanding an existing export terminal along the
large portion of which appears to have gone to execu- Houston Ship Channel to boost its exports. According
tive raises.127 to the company’s CEO, “The resulting rapid growth in
the supply of U.S. ethylene, combined with increased
Dominion Energy’s Cove Point terminal became the demand from international markets like Asia, creates
VHFRQG86/1*H[SRUWIDFLOLW\LQZKHQLWVȴUVW an ideal scenario in which markets abroad are able to
shipment left for Japan.128 The $4 billion terminal is diversify their supply by accessing cost-advantaged
connected to nearly 15,000 miles of pipeline infrastruc- feedstocks made possible by the shale revolution in
the United States.”140
ture, which supply the terminal with fracked gas.129
Cove Point threatens more than 830 people living just While Gulf Coast NGLs are ending up primarily in Asian
over a mile from the facility with the risk of accidents markets, exports from Appalachia are traveling across
the pond. United Kingdom-based chemical giant
from explosive fuels and chemicals.130
Ineos has teamed up with the U.S. fracking industry
Some companies are explicitly building their export to fuel European plastic factories.141 The controversial
model around fracking. For example, Tellurian, an LNG Mariner East pipeline system delivers ethane to
the Marcus Hook export terminal in Pennsylvania,
exporter run by a former Cheniere executive who helped
then large vessels dubbed “dragon ships” deliver the
build the Sabine Pass facility, is planning a $24 billion
fracked gas byproducts across the Atlantic Ocean to
scheme to combine upstream fracked gas assets with Ineos’ European facilities.142
liquefaction export terminals.131 In mid-2018 New
Fortress Energy was in the midst of an initial public

10 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


LNG facility in Louisiana, Freeport LNG’s Quintana Island
facility and Cheniere’s Corpus Christi facility — the latter
two both located in Texas. Combined, these facilities
would export an additional 5.4 billion cubic feet per day,
diverting another 7.2 percent of U.S. gas supplies.136

Liquefaction and export terminals


threaten communities with pollution
Approving more LNG facilities to export natural gas
will spur more environmentally damaging drilling and
fracking, while building these energy-intensive facilities
will generate more greenhouse gas emissions. It takes
a lot of energy to supercool natural gas enough to
convert it to a liquid.

LNG export facilities and terminals emit large amounts


of air pollution, damage marine habitats, release
dangerous toxins into the water and emit colossal
amounts of methane, locking in decades of climate
pollution.143 For example, Cove Point’s carbon dioxide A commemorative plaque memorializes those who
emissions rose by 26.7 percent to 174,500 metric VX΍HUHGLQWKH(DVW2KLR*DV&RPSDQ\
V/1*WDQN
tonnes between 2011 and 2016 as it ramped up to and sewer line explosion. / W,KdKͳzΞd/DsE^KEͬ&>/<Z͘KD
begin exports.144 Other pollutants rose more steeply.
Sulfur dioxide emissions more than tripled, particulate 2016.1517KLVDGGHGJDVȴUHGHOHFWULFFDSDFLW\FRXOG
matter emissions rose 34.6 percent, and nitrogen power 36.6 million homes, about a quarter of U.S.
oxides emissions rose 5.9 percent from 2011 to 2014, households.152
the latest data available.145 The demand for electricity is not rising as fast as new
7KHWDQNHUVDQGVWRUDJHIDFLOLWLHVDOVRSRVHVLJQLȴFDQW gas plants are coming online. The scramble to build new
risks of potentially catastrophic explosions. In 2014, a gas plants could create a “power supply glut,” potentially
pipeline explosion at a Washington state LNG terminal oversaturating the electricity market.153 Building more
VHQWVKUDSQHOȵ\LQJLQWRDPLOOLRQJDOORQVWRUDJH gas power plants also locks us in to a fossil-fueled future.
tank, causing it to leak.1467KHDFFLGHQWLQMXUHGȴYH 7KHDYHUDJHJDVȴUHGHOHFWULFJHQHUDWRULV\HDUVROG
workers, forced the evacuation of 1,000 residents within more than 743 generators (13 percent) went online at
a two-mile radius and caused $72 million in property least 50 years ago, and the oldest operating generator
damage.147 In 2004, an LNG explosion at the Skikda, went into service in 1915, over a century ago.154
$OJHULDWHUPLQDONLOOHGDQGȵDWWHQHGSRUWLQIUDVWUXF- 7KHJDVLQGXVWU\SURPRWHVJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV
ture.148 And in 1944, an LNG explosion in Cleveland, as a cleaner replacement for coal. But natural gas is
Ohio killed 128 people, injured between 200 and 400 QRFOLPDWHVROXWLRQWKHSODQWȇVFDUERQGLR[LGHHPLV-
more, and devastated the surrounding area.149 sions and widespread leaks of the potent climate gas
methane from gas infrastructure like pipelines mean
A Wave of New Fracked that declining combustion emissions are outweighed by

Gas Power Plants increased methane emissions.155

Independent power companies and regulated utilities And the new gas plants supplement rather than replace
DUHEXLOGLQJQDWXUDOJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWVDWDIUDQWLF FRDOȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV156 Although the prevailing wisdom
SDFH7KH'2(SURMHFWVWKDWQHZJDVȴUHGJHQHUD- LVWKDWWKHSRZHULQGXVWU\LVVZLWFKLQJWRJDVȴUHGSODQWV
tors will be built between 2018 and 2022.150 In 2017 WKHUHDOLW\LVWKDWWKHGHFOLQHLQFRDOȴUHGSODQWVLVEHLQJ
and 2018 alone, new gas plants provided an additional substantially eclipsed by new gas power plants. The DOE
36.6 gigawatts of energy — an 8 percent increase since projects that although retiring power generators will
UHGXFHFRDOȴUHGFDSDFLW\E\DQHWJLJDZDWWVEHWZHHQ

The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 11
FIG. 2 • Monthly Gas Deliveries to Power Plants • 12 MONTH ROLLING AVERAGE, BILLIONS OF CUBIC FEET

900

800

700

600

500

400

300

200

100

0
2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018

SOURCE: U.S. Energy Information Administration

2018 and 2022, the net additions of natural gas genera- infrastructure to absorb the overabundance of low-
tors would add 49.7 gigawatts of capacity, and natural priced natural gas, raising the demand and prices for
gas represents nearly 60 percent of power capacity fracked gas.164
coming online.157
7KHJDVÀUHGSRZHUSODQWERRP
7KHVHQHZJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWVSURYLGHSURȴW The natural gas plant boom is a nationwide phenom-
RSSRUWXQLWLHVIRUSRZHUFRPSDQLHVFDSLWDOL]LQJRQ enon but has been especially concentrated near
low gas prices and for fracking companies that hope existing shale plays in Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio
these new plants will soak up supplies and ultimately and West Virginia.165 Texas has added numerous gas
raise prices enough to encourage more drilling.158 New plants in the past decade including the largest recip-
gas plants have already substantially increased prices rocating gas plant in the country.166 But the buildout
for natural gas at the wellhead.159 The gas plants drive is particularly pronounced in Appalachia where,
additional gas drilling, cement fossil fuel’s dominance according to Moody’s Investors Service, the surplus
of our energy grid, lock in greenhouse gas emis- of fracked gas produced by Marcellus and Utica
sions for decades and displace investments in clean shale reserves has spurred a “rush to build new gas
renewables like wind and solar.160 Economic modeling plants.”167
of energy prices over the past two decades shows
Since 2011, energy companies have constructed
that increased natural gas production has lowered
or planned to build 48 new power plants fueled by
prices by $0.16 per million Btu, while new gas-powered
fracked gas in Pennsylvania, including a massive
generation technology has increased natural gas
1,500 megawatt gas plant that Invenergy wants
prices by $0.54 per million Btu.161
to build in Jessup.168 Invenergy’s power plant in
Since 2005, average monthly gas deliveries to the elec- Jessup is close to existing and proposed transmis-
tric power sector have increased by 57 percent (see sion lines that can send power to New York City.169
Figure 2).162 The proportion of electricity in the United Pennsylvania does not need the Jessup facility or any
States that came from natural gas was 32 percent in RWKHUQHZJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV already, the elec-
2017 and is anticipated to increase to 34 percent by tricity grid in Pennsylvania is exporting more power
the end of 2019.163 This buildout boosts the exploration to other states than the state’s residential customers
DQGGULOOLQJVHFWRUȇVFRUSRUDWHSURȴWVE\FUHDWLQJQHZ have used.170

12 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


In Ohio, investors are funneling $10 billion into nearly a the environment but is designed to deliver electricity into
GR]HQJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV171 These 11 Ohio mega- the grid and to export power to New York City through an
plants would represent 10,000 megawatts of dirty underground transmission line running below the Hudson
generation powered by the nearby Marcellus and Utica River.177 It would be built near an existing, large 1,229
shale plays.172 The largest of the Ohio plants is a 1,650 PHJDZDWWJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWLQ5LGJHȴHOG178 potentially
megawatt plant with a $1.45 billion price tag.173 compounding regional air pollution.

At the same time, a sprawling web of pipeline infra- Fracking has led to the construction of several pipelines
structure traversing the northeastern United States has to bring natural gas to Florida.179 The largely fracked gas
made it possible for unnecessary power plant proposals is driving a huge rise in Florida’s gas-fueled electricity
to pop up in states where gas is not being drilled.174 production.180 The state’s electric grid is set to have
In Burriville, Rhode Island, for example, Invenergy the nation’s largest share of gas generation by 2021.181
proposed a 1,000 megawatt gas-fueled power plant 7KHVHQHZSODQWVDUHQRWMXVWUHSODFLQJFRDOȴUHGSODQWV
that has been stalled by a protracted legal battle to use but are replacing older gas plants and supplementing
water from the local reservoir.175 service to some areas of the state.182 A labyrinth of
pipelines will be needed to service these facilities, like
Diamond Generating Corp. plans to build a 1,200 mega-
the proposed 685-mile Southeast Market Pipelines
watt gas plant in North Bergen, New Jersey. Shale gas from
Project that aims to deliver natural gas to Florida power
the Appalachian basin will likely fuel the facility, which is
plants.183 When all is done, the Sunshine State will also
sited to be built near sensitive wetlands.176 The proposed
be home to a 1,640-megawatt power plant.184
Meadowlands project would pollute local communities and

W,KdKͳzΞZKZd^,tKZd,ͬ&>/<Z͘KD

The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 13
W,KdKͳzͳ^Ξ<^dKZEͬ&>/<Z͘KD

Economic headwinds suggest that these power plants 1DWXUDOJDVȴUHGSODQWVDUHPDMRUHPLWWHUVRIQLWURJHQ


are not the result of inevitable market forces. In R[LGHVFRQWULEXWHWRJURXQGOHYHOR]RQHDQGVPRJ
2018, General Electric scaled back its gas power plant and threaten the environment and human health.192
equipment business, but it tripled some incentives 1DWXUDOJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWVFDQDOVRUHOHDVH
for its salespeople to market new power plant equip- radon,193 a naturally occurring radioactive material
ment.185 Meanwhile, renewable power and storage that is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the
technology exists to support a low-cost transition United States, after smoking.194
from fossil fuels.186 In California, regulators approved
$LUSROOXWLRQIURPSRZHUSODQWVGLVSURSRUWLRQDWHO\D΍HFWV
and utilities built unnecessary and expensive gas
lower-income communities and communities of color,
power plants.187+RZHYHUPRUHD΍RUGDEOHUHQHZ-
where power plants are most commonly located.195 A
able options are leading some utilities to reconsider
DQDO\VLVIRXQGWKDWKDOIRI&DOLIRUQLDȇVJDVȴUHG
WKHHFRQRPLFZLVGRPRIEXLOGLQJRXWPRUHJDVȴUHG
power plants were located in communities designated as
power plants.188
disadvantaged — and only 9 percent of the plants were

Natural gas plants are no climate solution in the least disadvantaged areas.196 A 2018 Food & Water
Watch study found that Pennsylvania’s buildout of new
The gas power plant boom will boost energy consump- natural gas plants fueled by the Marcellus and Utica shale
tion, lock-in fossil fuel dependence and commit us to plays were more likely to be sited near lower-income and
unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide emissions.189 less-educated communities, reinforcing the long-standing
The proposed gas plants would increase the climate- existing pattern of environmental injustice.197
destroying emissions both from the plants and from
the widespread methane leaks from connecting Ultimately, the sunk investment costs in these new
infrastructure, meaning that natural gas cannot be greenhouse gas emitters not only discourage invest-
considered a low-carbon fuel.190 These infrastructure ments in clean, renewable energy,198 but they also
projects will remain part of the energy landscape for magnify the demand for natural gas, encouraging more
decades — some U.S. pipelines were built more than fracking, pipelines and the associated methane leaks.199
\HDUVDJRDQGJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWVFDQRSHUDWH Even if public pressure forces the early retirement of
for more than 50 years.191 these power plants, their costs would still be passed on
to ratepayers. 200

14 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


must halt the rapid expansion of dirty infrastruc-
Conclusion: Stopping Dirty ture and stop the unloading of dirty fuels in over-

Infrastructure Now Is the Only seas markets.


• Restricting the sale of plastic products that
Way to Avoid a Fracked Future prop up the oil and gas industry. We must restrict
The new wave of fracked gas infrastructure invest- the sale of unnecessary petrochemical products,
ments — petrochemical facilities, plastics plants, LNG particularly single-use packaging and made-for-
H[SRUWIDFLOLWLHVDQGJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWVȃDUH disposal products.
V\PELRWLFSURȴWHHULQJRSSRUWXQLWLHVIRUWKHVKDOH • Enacting aggressive energy conservation poli-
gas industries and their new industrial partners. The cies. Large investments in public transportation
growing expansion and new construction of these and widespread deployment of other energy-saving
gas-consuming facilities locks in more demand for solutions will reduce demand for fracking and
drilling and fracking, and cements decades more of support a transition to clean energy.
climate pollution. • Transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable
These industries do not produce products of real value energy by 2035. We must establish ambitious
or need. Encouraging the use of plastics, preserving SURJUDPVIRUGHSOR\LQJDQGLQFHQWLYL]LQJH[LVWLQJ
antiquated electricity generation, and supercooling gas UHQHZDEOHHQHUJ\DQGHQHUJ\HɝFLHQF\WHFK-
loaded at potentially explosive export terminals and nologies, in order to slash fossil fuel demand and
mega-tankers endangers human health, the environ- reach 100 percent clean, renewable energy by
ment and the future of the planet. 2035.
• Modernizing electrical grids to cater to distrib-
These industries are proving an economic lifeline to
uted renewable power generation. Creating
a fracking industry that is spending more on capital
resilient, local, renewable-powered grids will reduce
investments (exploration, drilling and infrastructure)
dependence on dirty generation and increase
than it is earning from gas sales because of persistently
resilience to climate chaos.
low prices. The new petrochemical factories, LNG
• Increasing investments in research to support
exports and power plants will cushion the fracking
WKHQH[WJHQHUDWLRQRIHɝFLHQF\DQGHQHUJ\
industry by sopping up the gas glut, tightening the
technologies. Making investments in research and
supply and raising prices. Without the buildout of
development to overcome technological barriers to
fracked gas infrastructure, the industry would likely
WKHQH[WJHQHUDWLRQRIFOHDQHQHUJ\DQGHQHUJ\Hɝ-
face more severe economic headwinds and be unable
ciency solutions will lower prices and further help
to reinvest in more drilling and exploration.
FOHDQWHFKQRORJLHVFRPSHWHZLWKORQJVXEVLGL]HG
Instead of doubling down on new fossil fuel facilities, dirty power.
we must invest in clean, renewable energy. Technology • Refusing to bail out stranded dirty infrastruc-
for a large-scale transition to renewables has existed ture investments. As climate chaos damages
for over 20 years201 — we just need strong government petrochemical investments and the clean energy
policies backed by political will to see them through. transition requires closing expensive assets early,
Food & Water Watch recommends: the burden must fall on the investors and not on
• Banning fracking everywhere. We must act to the public ratepayers or taxpayers.
immediately ban fracking and associated activities, • End eminent domain for private gain. Refusing
such as sand mining and waste disposal that support shaky interpretations of the “public interest” that
fracking, and fully investigate claims of environ- include private plunder via state power would
mental contamination from drilling and fracking. undermine the economic basis for dangerous
• Stopping fossil fuel exports and the construction pipeline and export infrastructure.
of infrastructure to support these exports. We

The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 15
Endnotes
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ducing Gas Wells. (NA1170-SPA-8.) Available at www.eia.gov/ St. Ignace News 0Ζ -XO\Ȋ6SULQJȴHOGPRYLQJIRUZDUG
naturalgas/data.php. Accessed November 2018. with new natural gas power plant.” :$1'ȃ6SULQJȴHOGΖO
2 EIA. Dry Shale Gas Production Estimates by Play. November 15, $SULOȊ1HZΖQGLDQDJDVSRZHUSODQWVHWWRRSHUDWHE\
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market conditions.” Baton Rouge Advocate. January 31, 2016.
3 Food & Water Watch analysis of EIA workbooks: U.S. Natural
*DV0DUNHWHG3URGXFWLRQ861DWXUDO*DV*URVV:LWKGUDZDOV  $O6XGDLUL0D]HQ$O5DMKL&DSLWDOȊ2LO0DUNHW8SGDWH23(&
U.S. Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals From Shale Gas. Available at +DUPRQ\DQG6KDOH5HDOLW\ȋ-DQXDU\Ȋ6KDOHGULOOHUV
www.eia.gov. Accessed March 2018. still struggling to rein in spending.” E&E News.0D\
Ȋ$PHULFDȇVVKDOHȴUPVGRQȇWJLYHDIUDFNDERXWȴQDQFLDOUHWXUQVȋ
 6KDOL]L=DQG)/HFRFT:RUOG%DQN'HYHORSPHQW(FRQRPLFV
 *XUGXV(OL]DEHWKȊ&UDPHU<RXVKRXOGEHVFDUHGLI\RX
“Climate Change and the Economics of Targeted Mitigation in
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3DSHU1R6HSWHPEHUDWWR(XURSHDQ6\VWHPLF  (Ζ$  (Ζ$Ȋ*URZLQJ86+*/SURGXFWLRQVSXUVSHWURFKHPL-
Risk Board. “Too Late, Too Sudden: Transition to a Low-Carbon FDOLQGXVWU\LQYHVWPHQWȋ-DQXDU\+HOPDQ&KULVWRSKHU
(FRQRP\DQG6\VWHPLF5LVNȋ5HSRUWVRIWKH$GYLVRU\6FLHQWLȴF “The U.S. has a natural gas glut.” Forbes. June 13, 2012.
&RPPLWWHH1R)HEUXDU\DWDQG3IHL΍HU$OH[DQ-  3RIHOGW(ODLQHȊ6SLOORYHUH΍HFW2LOSULFHFUDVKEDQNUXSWLQJ
der et al. “The ‘2°C Capital Stock’ for Electricity Generation: Com- ‘small oil.’” CNBC-DQXDU\(JDQ0DWWȊ86RLOEDQN-
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5 Puko, Timothy and Nicole Friedman. “Natural gas falls to all-time 16 Food & Water Watch analysis of EIA workbooks: U.S. Natural
LQȵDWLRQDGMXVWHGORZH[WUHPHO\ZDUPZHDWKHUFRQWLQXHVWR *DV0DUNHWHG3URGXFWLRQ861DWXUDO*DV*URVV:LWKGUDZDOV
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ȴUPVGRQȇWJLYHDIUDFNDERXWȴQDQFLDOUHWXUQVȋThe Economist. ȴQDQFLDOUHWXUQVȋ  
0D\3XNR7LPRWK\Ȋ*DVȴUPVUDOO\RQVLJQVJOXWLVHDV-
18 Williams-Derry, Clark and Kathy Hipple. Sightline Institute and
LQJ)RXURIQLQHWRSSHUIRUPLQJVWRFNVLQWKH6 3DUHJDV
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FRPHEDFN7KH+D\QHVYLOOH6KDOHLQ/RXLVLDQDLVEHLQJUHERUQ 7KHVXUJHRIHWKDQHȋ  $&&  DWDQG(Ζ$Ȋ:KDW
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39 ACC (2016). 61 Wanhua Chemical Group. [Press release]. “New $1.12 billion
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41 Taylor, Matthew. “$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds 62 Ibid.


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particulate matter pollution, and Pennsylvania’s Allegheny
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139 Energy Transfer Partners. [Press release]. “Energy Transfer an-
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140 Davis, Carolyn. “Enterprise snaps up Houston Ship Channel site
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122 EIA. “Natural Gas Weekly Update.” February 25, 2016. WUHSLGOHDYHV86$FDUU\LQJȴUVWVKDOHJDVVKLSPHQWWR(XURSHȋ
 5RFKH:DOWHU)-UȊ'RRUVRSHQHGIRUJDVȴUPWLHGWR1HLO 0DUFK'DYLHV5REȊ)LUVWVKLSPHQWRIIUDFNHGVKDOH
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144 EPA. Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) data-
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161 Kaufman and Hines (2018) at 603 and 604.
183 FERC. Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
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Coal’s crown.” E&E News. September 14, 2017. /LWWOH%LJΖQFK3LSHOLQHVȋDWWR(QEULGJHΖQF866(&
172 Ibid. )LOLQJ.)LVFDO\HDUHQGLQJ'HFHPEHUDW)RRG 
173 Ibid. Water Watch analysis of EIA data from EIA-860 2016. The aver-
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174 Krohn, John and Katie Teller. EIA. “New pipeline projects in-
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crease Northeast natural gas takeaway capacity.” January 28,
the oldest gas plant went online in 1915.
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The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos 21
192 International Energy Agency. “Energy and Air Pollution: World $XJXVWDW)DEHU'DQLHO5DQG(ULF-.ULHJ$UHSRUW
(QHUJ\2XWORRN6SHFLDO5HSRUWȋDWDQG&DOLIRU- by Philanthropy and Environmental Justice Research Project
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dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and Mercury (Hg).” June for Energy Policy and Technology. “Not Locked-in? The Over-
2002 at slides 5 and 6. ORRNHGΖPSDFWRI1HZ*DVȴUHG*HQHUDWLRQΖQYHVWPHQWRQ
Long-term Decarbonisation — A Case Study of Lock-in to New
193 Ericson, J.E. and P.G. Pham. “Radon levels in combustion stream
CCGT in the UK.” ICEPT Working Paper Ref: ICEPT/WP/2010/012.
of a natural gas incinerator power plant.” Bulletin of Environ-
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mental Contamination and Toxicology9ROΖVVDW
1 and 4.
Tsyplenkov, V. International Atomic Energy Agency. “Electricity
production and waste management: Comparing the options.”  0XUSK\  DWDQG6RXWKHUQ(QYLURQPHQWDO/DZ&HQWHU
International Atomic Energy Agency Bulletin. 1993 at 29. [Press release]. “Study: Proposed interstate natural gas pipe-
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self and Your Family From Radon.” (EPA-402/K-12/002.) May 2012
Renewables? A Perspective From Price and Price Risks in Gas
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ability through some building construction materials by using
B. et al. Duke University, Center on Global Change. “Research
SSNTD technique.” International Journal of Science and Research.
and Policy Recommendations for Hydraulic Fracturing and
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“WHO Handbook on Indoor Radon: A Public Health Perspective.”
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tion to Clean Capital, Irreversible Investment and Stranded
195 Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy. “Natural
Assets.” Policy Research Working Paper 6859. May 2014 at
Gas Power Plants in California’s Disadvantaged Communities.”
Abstract.
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Pastor. “Clearing the air: Incorporating air quality and environ-  8QUXK*UHJRU\DQG-DYLHU&DUULOOR+HUPRVLOODȊ*OREDOL]LQJ
mental justice into climate policy.” Climatic Change. Vol. 120, No. carbon lock-in.” Energy Policy.9RODW%URZQHWDO
(2018) at 834 and 842.

22 Food & Water Watch • foodandwaterwatch.org


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