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.