Sharon Kelly

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Sharon Kelly is an attorney and freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She has reported for The New York Times, The Nation, National Wildlife, Earth Island Journal, and a variety of other publications. Prior to beginning freelance writing, she worked as a law clerk for the ACLU of Delaware.

So Wrong, So Often: Karl Rove Grasps For Audience Approval at Oil & Gas Summit

When the shale gas industry met last week in Pittsburgh, none other than Karl Rove gave the keynote speech, regaling the audience with a lengthy patriotic anecdote comparing the fossil fuel dillers to the US Navy Seals who killed Osama Bin Laden.

Having recently attended a quail hunt fundraiser with some of those Navy Seals, Rove described the tenacity of one Seal who had been wounded sixteen times on a mission in Iraq but courageously improvised his own medical evacuation despite his severe injuries. Rove then told the assembled drillers that their industry was serving the nation and overcoming adversity in much the same way as that soldier.

You overcome the physical difficulties of drilling thousands of feet under the surface for hydrocarbons,” he told over a thousand oil and gas executives as they dined on artichoke-crusted chicken. Invoking the wounded American soldier, Rove added: “He’s overcoming it by finding a way, after serving in this ghastly way like that, to serve something bigger than himself.”

It was quintessential Karl Rove. It was also the crowning moment of a rousing speech from a man who, over the past month has been pilloried for being so wrong, so often.

In Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath, Fracking Adds to Headaches

As Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast last month, tens of thousands of landowners with oil and gas leases faced an especially acute concern: would they get help from FEMA if their properties were damaged or destroyed by the storm?

The question arises across the Marcellus region –- and the rest of the U.S. – because one of the agency's disaster response programs will not buyout land that’s been leased to drillers, according to FEMA emails and internal documents.

The US shale boom is drawing increasing attention from federal agencies worried about the potential hazards posed by drilling. A growing awareness of financial risks to landowners and lending institutions associated with oil and gas drilling is slowly emerging. The USDA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have already considered moves to protect themselves from potential legal and financial reverberations.

With FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding now at stake, Congress is also getting involved.

Oil and Gas Leases Create Conflicts for FEMA

As the shale gas boom has brought oil and gas drilling closer and closer to home for many Americans, banking and real estate experts have found that drilling may pose significant risks involving property values, homeowners, and mortgage lenders.

New documents obtained by DeSmogBlog show that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the latest in a string of federal agencies and other major institutions that are now contending with the drilling boom’s impacts. And some landowners in Pennsylvania are now finding out that oil and gas development in their communities can cause unexpected difficulties – leading to new headaches for families who are already dealing with catastrophe.

Since the 1980’s, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program has worked to minimize the harms caused by disasters like floods. The program also provides help to those in areas that see frequent earthquakes or wildfires, taking measures to cut down on the harm done to people and to property.

Americans often turn to this program when their homes have been flooded again and again. It is a program of last resort, helping to pull back development from areas that are prone to disasters.

Experts Air Serious Concerns Before New York Fracking Decision

James Thilman/Gothamist

Two recent court decisions  in New York state upheld the right of towns to use zoning laws to limit or even ban fracking within their borders. Other states and cities such as DallasMaryland, and North Carolina, are still trying to figure out whether, and if so how, to proceed with new drilling.

But the big decision that concerned citizens are watching is the one to be made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo about his state’s moratorium. New York received more than 40,000 public comments on fracking and is plowing through them now.

The state has yet to publish those documents on the web, but DeSmogBlog has obtained many of them. Here is our initial shortlist of comments that offer the most important warnings and useful insights.

A Hidden Threat?

One of the most overlooked but potentially dangerous public health issues relating to unconventional gas drilling is radon. This odorless and radioactive gas comes up from the wells mixed with the gas that gets piped to consumers. Highly carcinogenic, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, just behind cigarette smoking, according to the EPA.

In his comments, Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, director of Radioactive Waste Management Associates, concludes that radon levels in the gas that will come from Marcellus and likely be delivered to nearly 12 million New York residents will be far higher than current levels. As a result, “the potential number of fatal lung cancer deaths due to radon in natural gas from the Marcellus shale range from 1,182 to 30,448” he writes.

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