An industry-funded report states that the uptick in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activities has benefited the economy with jobs, revenue, and household income increases.
While some believe fracking is an answer to a downturned economy and energy independence, more believe the drilling is putting the fresh water supplies for millions of people at risk. The risk is greater for those living closest to the drilling boom.
The report, issued by industry group, HIS CERA, cited booming natural gas and oil production, which has supported 2.1 million jobs, added nearly $75 billion in federal revenue, and increased household income by $1,200, according to Bloomberg.com.
Meanwhile, gas or oil drilling with fracking has been tied to groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania and is impacting water resources in areas of Texas undergoing drought conditions, said Mark Brownstein, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund in New York. “If you’re going to make the argument that there are benefits to developing this resource you have to also be prepared to make the argument that you’re going to do everything possible to minimize risks to public health and the environment,” Brownstein told Bloomberg.com. “Unless you’re taking the appropriate steps to minimize those risks, you are imposing tremendous costs on communities.”
The CERA report did not account for fracking’s potential environmental impacts, Bloomberg.com noted.
Fracking critics have long argued that fracking devastates the environment and contaminates groundwater and underground water aquifers; this contaminates nearby and widespread fresh water supplies. Either through the fault of shoddy wells, poorly trained well workers, or through a questionable drilling process altogether, natural gas and the contents of the drilling fluid may be released underground through cracks in the wells or the fractures created by the drilling. This, many area residents closest to wells believe, has led to a contamination of their private water supplies, in some cases rendering water completely contaminated.
Meanwhile, litigation brought over hydraulic fracturing—fracking—is looking at the connection between fracking wastewater and increased seismic activity and earthquakes. For example, in 2010 and 2011, the town of Greenbrier, Arkansas experienced more than 1,000 minor earthquakes; the largest was a magnitude 4.7, according to Reuters. University of Memphis and Arkansas Geological Survey scientists said the activity was most probably triggered by fracking wastewater disposal, prompting regulators from the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to call for the shut down of a number of area wells.
Fracking drilling involves horizontally injecting tons of silica sand, a massive mix of more than 600 chemicals, and water at least one mile underground via a drill into a concrete well that extends to a bed of shale rock deep beneath the earth’s surface. When this combination reaches the rock, it is blasted apart and natural gas is released and supposed to be returned to the surface and captured; most of the water remains underground.