Communities near fracking operations and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in the United States are worried that industrial expansion prompted by Russia’s war in Ukraine will bring them increasing and longer-term exposure to health-threatening pollutants.
“This is just locking me, my family, my community into more dirty energy, instead of a cleaner alternative,” Lois Bower-Bjornson said of the potential uptick in fracking near her home in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Bower-Bjornson, who serves as a field organizer for the Clean Air Council, lives within eight kilometres of more than 20 active fracking wells. In 2019, she and her family participated in a study that found high levels of the numerous hazardous chemicals associated with fracking in their bodies, demonstrating the health threat that the industry poses to nearby communities, Grist reports.
“It’s frightening,” said Bower-Bjornson. “It just becomes something that you live with, but, you know, it’s always on your mind.”
European countries have scrambled to cut Russian fuel from their energy diets after the Ukraine invasion, and they are looking to import from other countries. U.S. oil and gas firms did try to push their fossil products as the solution—with a strong push for continued expansion of their industry—but investors have held the sector back, concerned that there won’t be enough long-term demand to justify multi-decade investments in new LNG terminals.
“But now things are shifting,” writes Grist. LNG prices have become volatile as the war continues, and buyers are motivated to sign long-term contracts for stability. This could give investors the security they need to move ahead and fund new facilities. Meanwhile, “communities at every stage of the U.S. supply chain are worried about what this means for their lives and their health,” Grist says.
The potential health impacts from living near fracking and LNG facilities are myriad. Numerous studies indicate that proximity to fracking operations can lead to increased risk of asthma, skin disorders, cardiac problems, preterm births, low birth weight, and childhood leukemia.
Residents are also concerned about the risk of explosions at facilities that are compromised by extreme weather, fires, or floods. And because LNG and fracking infrastructure are long-term investments, they fear new contracts would lock them into these threats for years to come.
“If we bring in all these LNG facilities, they’re not going to start operating for a few years. But then, when they start, we’ll have to deal with them for 30 years,” said Roishetta Ozane, an environmental advocate in southwest Georgia. “That’s why we’re fighting this.”