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20th July 2016
Published on Tuesday, July 19, 2016
byCommon Dreams

Bolstered by New Proof of Asthma Link, Anti-Fracking Groups Plan 'Massive' March at DNC

Our country's leaders 'must take a hard look at the data, acknowledge the harms of drilling and fracking, and stop it before other people become ill'

byNika Knight, staff writer

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have conclusively shown that living close to fracking operations significantly increases asthma sufferers' risks of attacks, adding urgency to the battle against fracking within the Democratic Party as it prepares to convene in Philadelphia next week.

The study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at 35,000 medical records in Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2012. The state has long been host to a controversial fracking boom, and many have clamored for politicians to pay attention to the industry's irreversible damage to the land and human health.

"This study's findings confirm what we have known for years—that fracking is an inherently hazardous process that threatens human health and safety every day. More than 17 million Americans live within a mile of a fracking site, and they are all at risk," said Wenonah Hauter, founder and executive director of Food and Water Watch.

Indeed, this latest research joins more than 480 peer-reviewed studies that have shown increased health risks and harm from the fracking industry, noted Larysa Dyrszka, a medical doctor and co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York, during a press call Tuesday.

These results were thus "alarming but not surprising," Dyrszka said.

Locally and nationwide, leaders "must take a hard look at the data, acknowledge the harms of drilling and fracking, and stop it before other people become ill," Dyrszka added.

And so a large coalition of groups—including environmentalists, labor organizers, peace activists, protesters against nuclear power and "free trade" agreements, public health advocates, and representatives from local communities—are preparing a massive "March for a Clean Energy Revolution" to converge on the eve of the Democratic National Convention on July 24. Organizers predict that thousands will participate.

"As the national spotlight shines on Pennsylvania, it's important to recognize that this state is one of the most fracked in the U.S. and has faced some of the most devastating impacts," said Hauter.

And fracking is "not just a threat to the millions who live within one mile of an active well—the majority of whom are people of color," said Karuna Jaggar, executive director of public health advocacy group Breast Cancer Action, pointing out that dangerous chemicals used in fracking seep into soil, taint water supplies, and are dispersed by the wind.

"Fracking threatens the basic necessities of life: our food, our water, our air," Jaggar said. "For women's health advocates and environmental activists alike, the time to act is now."

Russell Greene, a prominent climate activist behind the declaration of a climate emergency that was included in the Democratic Party platform earlier this month, argued that the declaration is "a moment for us to build upon," and hopes the march will provoke real, tangible action from Democratic leaders.

Labor, too, is joining the battle: "Unions are deeply concerned with environmental justice," said Jon Forster, vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 37, based in New York City.

"Climate change discriminates. It impacts poor communities and communities of color, and those are the communities with fewest resources to recover," Forster said, adding that the march next week will push "against the unbridled greed that is leading to this disaster."

Margaret Flowers, an organizer with the anti-"free trade" advocacy group Stop the TPP, explained that her organization is taking part in the march to raise awareness of the Trans-Pacific Partnership's (TPP) Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process in which corporations are able to sue countries in private tribunals for passing laws they dislike. The ISDS provision will have "a chilling affect on [climate] laws," Flowers argued.

Stop the TPP is also staging a "No Lame Duck Uprising" during the march, Flowers said, to protest President Obama's plan to submit the TPP for congressional approval after the November election.

The Democratic Party platform committee refused to include language against the TPP in the platform, angering many activists. "Our message is that the TPP represents climate catastrophe," Flowers explained.

Meanwhile, fracktivists also took their fight to the Republican National Convention (RNC) currently happening in Cleveland, scaling the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Tuesday morning to hang a banner demanding the RNC not "Trump" local communities.

"We must remember that fracking often targets low income communities of color, often many of which are immigrants such as the Central Valley of California, where over 95% of fracking occurs in California," said Shane Davis, an activist who was forced from his home in Colorado after being exposed to the harmful impacts of fracking, in a press statement.

"We cannot stand by and accept a political system in which both candidates support the toxic fracking industry, and one candidate freely uses violent racialized language against immigrant communities," Davis added.

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