THE ONONDAGA NATION & H.E.T.F. Oppose Gas Drilling By Hyrdo-Fracking
Part of the first paragraph of the Nation’s Land Rights Action Complaint reads:
“The Nation and its people have a unique spiritual, cultural and historic relationship with the land, which is embodied in the Gayanashagowa, the Great Law of Peace. . . . The people are one with the land and consider themselves stewards of it. It is the duty of the Nation’s leaders to work for a healing of this land, to protect it and to pass it on to future generations.”
This obligation to act as stewards of the land and the waters is being fulfilled in the Nation’s work to stop the dangerous natural gas drilling method known as hydro-fracking. Around 1600 leases have already been signed by land owners in Onondaga County to gas drilling companies and some are just outside the Nation’s currently recognized territory. The Nation is very concerned with the dangers that will be created to the waters in general and to the Nation’s drinking water system in particular.
Hydro-fracking [or high-volume, slick water hydraulic fracturing] is a recent combination of technologies, spear headed by Halliburton, by which companies drill down 1000s of feet into the Marcellus and Utica shale layers, and then horizontally up to a mile in all directions from one well. Then, using about 5 million gallons of water per frack, under extremely high pressure, combined with sand and 100s of undisclosed but carcinogenic and highly toxic chemicals, they break up the shale to release small pockets of gas.
Problems arise because once they create this destruction underground, they can not control what happens with the gas or the toxic chemicals. Further, the millions of gallons of “frack fluids” which come back out of the wells after each frack, contain radioactivity, are 5 times more salty than sea water, and contain heavy metals from the shale, such as chromium, barium, etc. Today, in Pennsylvania, which rushed into hydro-fracking, over 9 million gallons of frack fluids are being created everyday, with no way, or place, to treat or clean up the water.
Since learning of this impending danger about a year and a half ago, the Nation, its environmental office, HETF and its legal office, has become a leader in educating ourselves and others and in helping build awareness and opposition to this drilling method and its dangers. Nation representatives have met twice with the highest leaders in the state DEC and we submitted a comment letter at the end of December, which focused on the danger presented to sacred sites, unmarked ancestors’ graves and other areas of cultural sensitivity. The Onondaga Nation has shared the concerns extensively with the EPA, which reflected this in its comment letter, opposing fracking and calling for special protection of the Tully Valley and Onondaga Creek.
The Onondaga Nation has also taken part in two investigative trips to Pennsylvania to meet and talk with citizens whose wells and lives have been ruined by nearby fracking. The result of these investigations has been working with scientists and researching fracking and gathering the largest source of articles and studies in this area of the state.
The Nation has also been networking and working with our non-Native neighbors who share our concerns, statewide. The Onondaga Nation and its representatives has attended meetings in Binghamton, Ithaca, Cortland, Liverpool, Tully and Syracuse of people concerned with fracking. We have also taken on numerous speaking engagements, aimed at educating people about the damages fracking has already caused in Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado and elsewhere; and we have assisted in showing a new documentary DVD, entitled Split Estate, which interviews the victims of this toxic industry in Colorado and New Mexico. After the Onondaga Mid-winter ceremonies in February, the Nation plans to continue of presenting and showing the public tha dangers of hydro-fracking.
Additionally, the Nation has also been urging the Syracuse Post Standard to increase the level of its coverage, and since a mid-December editorial board meeting, this has obviously shown positive results.
Finally, the Onondaga Nation and its representatives has met with and helped educate outside politicians, who are in positions to take some actions to protect the waters, such as Representative Dan Maffei, and Syracuse’s new Mayor, Stephanie Miner. We have also worked with Onondaga County leaders who recently decided to ban fracking on county owned lands. We have also met with town officials and the Town and Village of Tully have written the Governor, to ask him to stop fracking.
Much work remains to be done if fracking is going to be banned or controlled properly, but we have been influential in educating our neighbors to these dangers and in helping raise the general awareness of this environmental nightmare headed our way. Let’s continue to protect our waters for our future generations so that we all can enjoy nature’s gifts.
If your community would like to hear about the dangers of hydro-fracking, your community may be able to schedule an educational meeting at Joseph Heath’s office at 315-475-2559.
Read Dan Maffei’s letter to the Governor about Hydro-fracking.
Read the Onondaga Nation’s Educational Packet on Pennsylvania’s Hydro-fracking. by Lindsay Spear.