South Africa Lifts Fracking Moratorium; Citizens Alarmed By U.S. Fracking Examples
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Deal is concerned that South Africa doesn’t have the expertise in permitting fracking and should be taking cues from the global community because of the high risks.
“Minister Shabangu and our cabinet have ignored the international status of fracking – rejected, by tens of millions of people in more than 155 jurisdictions around the world,” said Deal. “These people, in countries such as Bulgaria and France (and many in the United States who have seen and experienced the effects of the technology) don’t want the so-called ‘benefits’ offered by shale gas where they raise their children, get their drinking water, grow food and breed livestock. Neither our government, nor Royal Dutch Shell has ever dealt with this. And their patent avoidance of this very pertinent question is remarkable. Why is it that so many millions don’t want fracking? And what qualifies the South African decision in the face of the international bans?”
For filmmaker Jolynn Minnaar of Un-earthed: The Documentary the issue of fracking in the Karoo is personal. “My parents have a farm in the Karoo and hearing this news, knowing now that my family home is at risk feels quite different. It has literally hit home,” said Minnaar. “As someone in the media and experiencing and understanding the heated debate, I know that the South African government is not in a position to make an informed decision.”
The Karoo, Minnaar explains, is a sparsely populated area. Most residents have little or no access to the Internet or social media, and hadn’t heard about fracking until a year ago.
“You’re unable to have a formal opposition unless you have awareness. Our government has a real lack of transparency. A frustrated government has made a rushed decision on poor research with a secret task force. The public was never consulted. Which studies did they look at? What is the government basing their decision on?” said Minnaar. “The South African media has reported on happenings but failed to investigate. They are not doing independent research. What is the shale South African energy plan?”
In search of more information about fracking, Minnaar traveled to the Catskills along with two Karoo farmers, Dougie Stern and Lukie Strydom. They visited the Northeast on a fact-finding tour coordinated by Ithaca resident Hilary Acton and sponsored by their agricultural co-op.
Stern, a fourth-generation farmer on his land, says they only learned of the fracking plans in 2011 when Shell was forced to reveal them. But Stern believes the company has been less than forthcoming with the details. “We believe they told us half and as a result we became very suspicious. We used the Internet to do research and realized that they were not telling us the truth,” said Stern. “That is why we decided collectively to come to the USA with the support of our agribusiness.”
Like many people in the U.S. who are living near fracking operations, Stern is concerned about its effect on the water.
“We were told that our waters would not be polluted in any way at all and that the air, pollution wouldn’t affect people at all. The biggest concern we have is that of water. Our aquifers are not that deep and we’ve been learning that they are similar to yours, between 40 and 300 feet below the surface,” said Stern. “There is every probability of them being polluted and polluted specifically from spills and the way they handle the toxic waste that is brought up after the operation. Also they have been very cagey about informing us exactly what this is about. We’ve been learning from your scientists and your professional engineers what is happening and how important it is that we make it absolutely clear to our government that we insist on the management of the toxic waste that is removed. This is one of our greatest concerns.”