Worldwide Ban on Fracking- A Summary of the Permanent People’s Tribunal Report

By Amanda Pantoja, LiKEN Research Assistant

April 16, 2019

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) is an internationally recognized court of justice that

enforces global human rights law and policy to cases around the world. The PPT aims to raise

awareness of human rights violations using testimonies and evidence from impacted

communities. By stimulating awareness, the PPT also paves the way towards realizing justice

through its recommendations for changes in state and international law, policies and programs.

For instance, the current state of our global climate crisis has called the PPT to take on efforts

to enforce the integration of the rights of humans and nature to a healthy environment into legal

frameworks and social movement building.

 

Recently the PPT has released a report calling for a worldwide ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Commonly called “fracking”, this method of unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOGE) is

responsible for severe impacts to people, ecosystems and the planet. After considering the

evidence brought forward to the PPT from various regions, the tribunal has reason to believe

that UOGE presents significant violations of international human rights law. Because dangers

are implicit in UOGE techniques, their continuation provokes the degradation of local

ecosystems and community health. Fracking operations inherently infringe on the right to health

through its contribution to climate change that threatens the well-being of present and future

generations. For a long time, health impacts have not been considered in state and international

laws and procedures regarding UOGE. And due to the evident relationship between a

community’s poor health and their proximity to fracking, these operations violate legally

protected human rights to life, water, and a clean environment.

 

Based on testimonies by impacted communities, the PPT’s report identifies that the fracking

system also violates the right to informed consent and decision-making. Currently, in the context

of fracking, communities are fighting for the right to define fracking, ecosystems, and the effects

of fracking. First, the accepted definition of fracking generally only designates fracking as a

method of extraction and other industrial activities such as exploring and refining shale gas.

However, the fracking industry has fought against recognizing that within the definition of

fracking also exist the “‘fracturing’ of our health, environment, properties, communities,

legislatures, media, justice system, rights, relationships, and way of life by those who would

usurp and abrogate our rights” as stated by the amicus curiae brief from New York. Second, oil

and gas companies define an ecosystem as a commodity. This perception of ecosystems does

not properly represent that of communities who are impacted by fracking. For many rural

residents who neighbor fracking operations, the land is closely tied to their identity, culture, and

livelihoods and thus, should be considered a rights-bearing entity. Third, fracking policies

suppress adequate information on their practices. Consequently, communities do not have the

sufficient definition of fracking impacts and further, are not allowed to achieve self-

determination.

 

The PPT report recommends that in order to address social and ecological justice, solutions like

the discontinuation of UOGE operations, reparations and restoration must be pushed for

through state governments and frontline communities. The PPT makes the argument that legal

action alone will not facilitate the change the world needs to see. This is due to the fact that the

PPT has evidence that governments have also violated the very same rights as UOGE

operations. Thus, there exists a history of distrust by both the oil and gas industry and

governments that allows the violations described to the PPT. In regards to previous

international, national, state, and regional laws regarding the environment, they have still proven

to be insufficient being that they are usually “soft laws” or laws that are influenced by

corporations. For this reason, the PPT states the following:

“Such authorities have betrayed the people and in doing so, have made a mockery of

democracy, the rule of law and the right of peoples to determine their own destiny, and that of

the planet. The PPT believes that the direct, active resistance of the people in countries around

the globe must be recognized as justifiable resistance to the unjust, even murderous,

destruction of communities and plundering of nature’s resources aided and abetted by

governments.”

 

The report concluding remarks uphold the PPT’s commitment to urging governments to

advocate for a strict ban on UOGE operations and reinforces their commitment to protecting the

rights of people, our planet, and future generations.

Reflection: Relocation Task Force

By Hannah Ornellas  

I am currently two weeks away from finishing my final quarter of my undergraduate career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and am becoming more and more excited to use what I have learned here to do what I am most passionate about, which is using my education to support others. Working with LiKEN this past quarter has given me a taste of what it is going to be like to very soon be contributing to projects and working outside of the university setting.

Many coastal populations, including Native American and Indigenous tribes in low lying areas are at risk of losing their land due to climate change and sea level rise. In response, LiKEN, through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant award to support the Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Science program, hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR/NCAR) in partnership with LiKEN, has facilitated the development of a Rising Voices Relocation Task Force Team. To support this work, myself and two other LiKEN research assistants were assembled to investigate government documents to better understand what is allowable under existing policies, laws, and regulations in relation to community relocations.

My first role while working on the first part of the Task Force was to comb through government documents and national and state policy to find essential pieces of information and legal definitions. I specifically looked through the policies and projects of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Flood Insurance Program (NIFP), and the United States Army Corp of Engineer document 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Governmental documents and policies are a navigational maze. Having spent the last four years focusing on learning research skills, I still struggled to find the specific information I was looking for in these policies and documents. This assignment made me realize how difficult it must be for people who are not native English speakers or those who do not have secondary education to try and find governmental policies that can help them. It illustrated how difficult it must be for disaster survivors trying to deal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims.

This project has confirmed my desire to use my education to support others. It is my responsibility in the fight for climate justice and a post-carbon world to use my education and my acquired skills to stand with communities and together, rise up and advocate for policies in favor of sustainable changes. We are running out of time to slow down the rate of climate change, and the work that LiKEN and other organizations are doing is essential for a sustainable, just future for all.

Protecting History and Nurturing Economic Development in Benham and Lynch, Kentucky By Mary Hufford

America’s environmental laws guarantee its citizens the right to participate in public conversations about alternatives to large-scale development projects.  Yet too often, when, as citizens, we exercise this right to participate in the visioning of futures for our communities, we are labelled “activists,” accused of threatening the jobs that come with environmentally destructive forms of extraction such as clear-cutting, fracking, and mountaintop removal mining.  We have a right to engage public conversations that consider the long-term costs and benefits of alternative pathways to development. To insist that these conversations take place is nothing less than patriotic.

Citizens of Benham and Lynch, in Harlan County Kentucky, have stepped forward to hold their representatives accountable to beneficiaries, past, present, and future, of Eastern Kentucky’s world-class public trust of fragile, forested, mountain ecosystems. They have identified resources on which they are already building alternative pathways to development. These historical, cultural, and ecological resources with economic potential are likely to be greatly diminished in value by strip mining in proximity. We support the citizens’ demand for an honest and thorough look at alternatives to extreme extraction that nurture and sustain human communities throughout the Central Appalachian region. As it stands, this requirement, though set forth explicitly in Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, has not been met.

 

Citizens of Benham and Lynch, partnering with the Kentucky Resources Council, have filed a Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition.  If you would like to support their petition, you can write to:                                                                                                                                                                  Jeff Baird, Director, Division of Mine Permits            jeff.baird@ky.gov                                                   300 Sower Boulevard, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601                                                                                The period for public comments is open until April 30, 2019.