Mounting legal pressures and a drop in natural gas prices has considerably slowed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling production across the country.
According to a report from NYaltNews.com, local efforts in the state of New York have almost crippled efforts to frack land sitting atop the massive Marcellus shale formation that was once recently believed to contain billions of dollars in natural gas deposits. A total of eight municipalities have passed laws that ban fracking drilling and other laws have been passed to slow the opening of new gas wells. In two cases, the state’s Supreme Court has upheld these bans.
There, regionally, and in other areas of the country where fracking wells have opened in exponential terms in recent years, residents have also begun to realize the harmful and dangerous effects of fracking drilling on their local environment. Residents living closest to fracking wells blame the gas extraction technique for poisoning their private water wells, ground water, the land, and air around them. They’ve also begun filing lawsuits against natural gas and drilling companies, blaming fracking for the damages.
Both from governmental and private pressure, natural gas and fracking drilling companies have been challenged to produce evidence that its technology is safe and efficient and to disclose the chemicals and other agents used during it and well construction. Until now, these companies have taken advantage of loopholes in federal energy legislation that allows them to not disclose some of the more toxic elements in the fracking process, namely the 60 or so known toxins believed to be used.
In 2008, fracking and natural gas companies appeared to have an upper-hand to these challenges. In a sharp turn of events however, it appears the natural gas industry is almost abandoning the technology altogether. When just three years ago there were promises that fracking could revolutionize some communities and states and reverse down economic times, today some states have seen almost all the wells go silent.
Today, the price of natural gas is 80 percent lower than it was in 2008, according to the same report. This has led to a massive reduction in revenues for natural gas companies and the once bottomless well to fund challenges to the fracking process on the private, local, and state levels, has gone dry. In Michigan, fracking drilling has almost come to a complete halt. In New York, gas companies are walking away from the same challenges or are not bothering to fight some local bans as they were more than willing to do just a year or two ago.
For one once-leading natural gas drilling company, Chesapeake Energy, the future that once looked very bright is now grim. Investors are abandoning the company as its gas production has dropped and it continues to face legal pressures from states and from private residents living closest to its wells who blame them for contaminating their water and causing health problems. Today, the company’s stock has bottomed and its credit rating has been relegated to below “junk” status.