Hydraulic fracturingâ€”popularly known as frackingâ€”is, in fact, an environmentally threatening method of extracting shale gas that involves injecting a cocktail of fluids, including dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals, into the ground at high pressure to shake gas and oil deposits loose. With the exception of diesel fuel, companies in the United States are not required to disclose chemicals used in fracking fluid because of a loophole in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Some gas producers tout the benefits of this practice as enabling the US to tap into its natural resources and improve the economy with an influx of jobs and money; the dangers and catastrophic consequences of this toxic process that decimates human, wildlife, atmospheric, and aquatic environments and health are typically ignored.
Food and Water Watchâ€”an advocacy group calling for nationwide banning of the controversial processâ€”notes that over the past ten years, many have promoted the benefits of attacking shale, â€œtightâ€ sandstone, or coal beds to break the rock and release the gas. And, while fracking is not new, the methods used today to access new or remote gas are not what they were and include greater risks. Food and Water Watch has a full report on the issue posted on its website.
Industry boasts benefits to the economy including increased income, more jobs, and reduced reliance on foreign energy resources; however, issues such as one typical case on which we recently wrote are ignored. In that case, one resident whose area was fracked now has tap water that is unusable and dangerous, emitting bubbles and hisses, sending out thick clouds, and igniting when near a fire source, such as a lit match. Clearly, her water cannot be consumed or used.
Even worse, fracking has wrecked havoc on communities due to accidents and leaks that have left deadly water, air, and earth pollutants behind and destroyed drinking water supplies and are rife with possible carcinogens, noted Food and Water Watch. Truck traffic, sometimes carrying dangerous toxins are commonplace in residential areas and property values have plummeted. The so-called â€œbridge fuelâ€ that energy analysts and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens extolled, said Food and Water Watch, could become â€œa bridge to nowhere.â€ Believed to be a viable transition from fossils fuels, considered â€œdirty,â€ to cleaner and renewable energy sources, the process of fracking unleashes untold dangers and, said Food and Water Watch, likely releases more greenhouse gas methane that outweighs the reduced carbon dioxide emissions released from burning natural gas.
In an ongoing New York Times report, the economic downside of this environmental menace is, said a shale industry official â€œset up for failureâ€; a senior Energy Information Administration advisor also noted that â€œit is quite likely that many of these companies will go bankrupt.â€ Also, said The Times, Energy Information Administration staff said in emails that The Times obtained that industry estimates may bloat the true amount of gas it can reasonably access from shale areas and may not be clear on the longevity of these wells; they also pointed to the steep prices paid by industry to lease mineral rights and the uncertainty of shale gas drilling.
Food and Water watch cited about 10 studies in the past 18 months written by scientists, Congress, investigative journalists, and public interest groups in which a number of fracking issues, including toxic, some carcinogenic chemicals that could not only cause cancer, but can release dangerous fracking wastewater containing high contaminants at high radioactive levels, which have posed significant removal challenges and have tainted local water supplies, such as rivers. Consider Pennsylvania, where over 3,000 fracking wells and well sites are situated within a mere two miles of 320 day cares, 67 schools, and 9 hospitals, noted Food and Water Watch.
Because of loopholes, fracking has received exemptions from federal water protections. As a result, said Food and Water Watch, regulators, at both the state and federal level, have enabled the process to proceedâ€”and expandâ€”causing broad environmental ruin. Due to its significant environmental and human health risks, a national ban on fracking is called for, said Food and Water Watch, pointing out that the oversight actually needed is viewed as overwhelming, not to mention that regulators have been unable to adequately protect us from frackingâ€™s outcomes.