Conservation Minnesota

New Concern Raised In Fracking

JohnHellandbiopicAs if all the potential environmental problems with mining sand and possible fracking taking place, see my previous article, doesn’t raise legislative policy concerns, a new one is emerging in agriculture.  Livestock on farms near oil and gas drilling sites are getting sick and sometimes dying.  Elizabeth Royte, longtime journalist and author of “Garbage Land” and “Bottlemania”, reports on this phenomena for the Natural Resources Defense Council newsletter.

A new study shows that chemicals used in the fracking process are poisoning cattle through our air, water and soil.  A Cornell University professor, along with a local Ithaca veterinarian, wrote the first peer-reviewed report supporting a link between fracking and livestock illness.  Their report, published in “New Solutions:  A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,” describes scores of animals dying over several years of research.

Some cows near fracking areas aren’t producing milk for their calves.  Pregnant cows in a part of western Pennsylvania have had their calves born dead.  Farmers who receive royalty checks from fracking companies often are reluctant to complain, or bring the matter up to local officials.

This is becoming an issue in the food industry too, as chemically-exposed livestock are making their way into the food system.  If this continues, it could affect the local food market system, as consumers will be suspicious of buying tainted meat.

The rising concern that fracking can impact nearby agriculture, and eventually the food supply, reminds me of a similar concern in Minnesota back in the late 1970’s.  At that time, two electric power associations wanted to build a 400-mile transmission line across the central part of the state that would carry direct electrical current.  It caused a huge uproar, one that gave rise to Paul Wellstone’s political career, that lasted for several years among farmers whose land would contain the transmission towers and line.  They were concerned that their livestock would suffer tragic illness and death, and that even human health in the area would be affected.

So this new issue of fracking impacting agriculture, with possible implications to our food supply, should not be taken lightly but be monitored closely in the fracking debate.

John Helland also wrote an article on this issue back in 2012.

About John Helland

John Helland

John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.

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