After years of failing to stem the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the U.S., some environmentalists have resorted to another tactic: claiming that fracking is tantamount to rape.
Environmental activist Sharon Wilson of Earthworks seems to have started a new rallying call against the oil and gas industry by claiming that a recently passed bill in the Texas state legislature was allowing “Texas fracking rape.”
“Fracking victims I have worked with describe it as a rape,” Wilson wrote in a blog post protesting a Texas bill that had passed out of committee called HB 40. “It is a violation of justice and it is despoiling the land. Victims usually suffer PTSD.”
“The oil & gas industry THROUGH our elected officials are shoving fracking down the throats of Texans,” Wilson said. “They are left dehumanized and completely helpless against the powerful oil & gas industry because they are in the way of profits. If feeling helpless to protect yourself against power is not a form of rape, what is?”
Wilson’s image of an oil rig burning a hole through the middle of Texas became a sort of rallying cry for Texas environmentalists angry that the state legislature passed a law to invalidate local fracking bans in towns like Denton.
Anti-fracking activists across Texas echoed Wilson’s claims that fracking was raping Texas. Earthworks, where Wilson works, retweeted the blog post, saying, “Our previous RT of @TXsharon was done advisedly. The Texas legislature is trying to pass bill to force city to be fracked against its will.”
— frackfreedenton (@frackfreedenton) March 30, 2015
One of the leaders of the Mansfield Gas Well Awareness, an environmental group that tried to get Mansfield to ban fracking, jumped on the bandwagon as well.
— Q (@quijibo999) March 30, 2015
Tim Ruggiero, who heads up the group ShaleTest, tweeted, “Having Industry even at the table is like asking rapists/robbers their opinion on criminal law statutes.” ShaleTest’s research played a role in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking last year.
— Tim Ruggiero (@TimRuggiero) April 2, 2015
But while Wilson and a handful of other activists have endorsed the idea that fracking is rape, other environmental groups have not joined in.
Earthworks backed off its support of Wilson’s rape analogy when pressed by the Washington Free Beacon, saying that Wilson’s view on this subject is “independent” of the group.
“Having your home fracked against your will is not the same thing as rape,” a spokesman told the Free Beacon. “It’s not rape because at the end of the day you can leave your home, even if the cost is enormously high. With rape, you can’t leave your body as it is being violated.”
Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation inquiry regarding their support for Wilson’s statements. But pro-oil and gas industry folks were extremely critical of Wilson’s remarks.
“This is repugnant,” said Steve Everley, team leader of Energy In Depth — an industry-backed educational project. “People can disagree civilly with respect to regulation and energy development, and even be passionate in their views. But I think most of us can come together and agree that this sort of rhetoric is unacceptable.”
Fracking is a well-stimulation process that involves injecting water, sand and some chemicals about 8,000 feet underground to unlock oil and gas from shale rock. Environmentalists, obviously, dislike fracking and argue it’s harming air and water quality — though there is little to no evidence of this.
While Wilson’s remarks are probably the first to draw a moral equivalency between fracking and rape, environmentalists have in the past tried to tie fracking operations to increases in sexual assaults.
A 2013 article by VICE claimed that fracking was increasing rapes, sexually transmitted diseases and drug addiction in states like North Dakota — now the second-largest U.S. oil-producing state. Liberal sites like Grist and Salon parroted the claims made by VICE.
“Critics of fracking have compared it to raping the Earth, but where drilling has spread, literal rape has followed,” wrote VICE’s Peter Rugh. “Violence against women in fracking boomtowns in North Dakota and Montana has increased so sharply that the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced in June that it plans to spend half a million dollars investigating the correlation.”
Environmentalists in Colorado have also been claiming that fracking is “raping” the state’s land. In public comments submitted to the city of Boulder, Colo., a professor from the University of Arizona said an energy company “has lied, stonewalled and manipulated the political process in order to continue its rape of the land and water resources of the state.”
One activist told Boulder County Commissioners to extend or impose of new moratorium on fracking or else “the rape will occur and all we’ll be able to do is stand by and watch and cry.”
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