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Interview With Oakley Shelton-Thomas On The ‘Fracking Endgame’ In The United States

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Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola interview Oakley Shelton-Thomas, researcher for Food and Water Watch. He was a lead author of the organization’s recent report, “Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos.”

The report describes how fossil fuel companies are building a “wave of new gas-fired power plants” and relying on the proliferation of plastics plants to prop up business. Industry is propping up the fracking industry.

“Our latest research shows that their endgame is a world locked into plastics, pollution 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 capitalize off a glut of cheap fracked gas,” according to the report.

Shelton-Thomas said, “There are 364 new gas-powered plants in some point of planning and construction, and that’s underway right now. And that’s in addition 333 petrochemical facilities that are also going to become an outlet for this expansion.”

There are around 50 liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities in development too.

“Overall, that’s going to support about a 25-30 percent increase in gas production, and most of that is going to be fracked gas production by about 2025,” Shelton-Thomas added. “That’s a huge amount of new fracked gas at the very moment when we need to be transitioning away from fossil fuels and fracked gas especially. ”

The fracked gas industry has a symbiotic relationship with the plastics industry.

“Sort of the sky’s the limit, as far as how much plastic they can turn their fracked gas into, and we’re looking at what could be as much as a 40 percent in global plastics production over the next decade,” according to Shelton-Thomas.

He continued, “Every stage of plastic production is dirty and has negative health consequences for people who interact with it.”

“Around the petrochemical facilities themselves, these are incredibly polluting. They have large emissions of ozone precursors, of volatile organic compounds, as well as chemicals like formaldehyde. And in communities that see large-scale build out or have sort of a large established infrastructure production of petrochemical production, there are heightened rates of cancer.”

Cancer rates are astounding in areas around the Gulf of Mexico like Houston or parts of Louisiana. It has the moniker “Cancer Alley” because of the high rates of cancer in the region.

The proliferation of fracked gas production and plastics production adds to decades of environmental injustice in Appalachia.

Shelton-Thomas noted in West Virginia, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania there is a new storage hub proposal that would support up to nine petrochemical facilities. “Each one of them could produce as much as 3.5 billion pounds of plastic every year.”

Communities have already “been dealing with the environmental footprint of fracking in that area and of coal extraction. They have that inter-generational burden of what is now over a century of coal production that’s polluted waterways and poisoned communities,” Shelton-Thomas acknowledged.

“So, the addition of this new burden rather than transitioning away from fossil fuels is really sad honestly.”

In the organization’s assessment, “These new projects [will] bring dangerous air pollutants associated with heightened cancer risks and respiratory illnesses, and color where they are most commonly located.”

“If even a fraction of them come to fruition, they will condemn the planet to a future of climate chaos,” the report declares.

Listen to the full interview by clicking the above player or go here.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."