Lois Gibbs won the Goldman Prize in 1990 for her work to expose and clean-up ‘the love canal,’ a 21,000-ton toxic waste site buried beneath her neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York. The discovery came after Gibbs launched a personal investigation into the unexplained health problems of her children and neighbors.
Gibbs fought for years to get the site cleaned-up and went on to become the founding director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), an organization that helps local communities combat toxic waste and environmental issues across the country.
Today, Gibbs and the team at CHEJ are taking on one of the most controversial environmental issues facing the country today: hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
Fracking is a natural gas extraction technique that involves injecting a highly pressurized mixture of sand, water and toxic chemicals deep into the earth through horizontally drilled wells. The pressurized mixture causes the shale rock to crack, creating fissures through which natural gas is released and led back up through the well.
For a simple, user-friendly demonstration of how fracking works, click here.
Opponents of the technique warn that the toxic chemicals used in fracking (such as formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid and methanol) may contaminate the groundwater near drilling wells.
Fracking is also a resource intensive process, using 1-8 million gallons of water per fracture. And although natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel, it is still a fossil fuel like coal or oil – not a truly clean and renewable energy source like wind or solar.
The No Fracking Campaign led by CHEJ focuses mainly on the states located atop the Marcellus Shale: Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan and West Virginia. Gibbs has been particularly vocal about fracking near the Great Lakes, calling the idea “insane” in the article “Fracking the Great Lakes,” on Ecowatch.org.
“It is up you and me,” Gibbs said about taking a stand against fracking.