Truck Traffic A Big Issue in Fracking Debate

Most of the debate surrounding the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing has centered around its impact on water quality. But environmentalists are quick to point out that hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, poses other problems. These include the pollution, noise and damage caused by trucks that are used to haul waste water from drilling operations.

Studies show one natural gas well can generate up to 1,300 round trips by truckers heading to and from the site while it’s being fracked. The threat posed by fracking trucks was illustrated this week in Pennsylvania, where drilling in the gas rich Marcellus shale has been booming for the past two years. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania State Police announced that 208 trucks were forced out of service during a three-day enforcement effort that focused on commercial vehicles hauling waste water from Marcellus shale natural gas drilling operations in the state.

“Pennsylvania is experiencing heavy truck traffic in areas where Marcellus shale natural gas drilling operations are taking place, particularly in Bradford, Clearfield, Susquehanna, Tioga and Washington counties,” State Police Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski. “The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, requires significant amounts of water to be delivered to the sites and later trucked away.”

Pawlowski said 140 of the vehicles placed out of service were trucks hauling waste water from the drilling operations. The others were trucks being used in support of drilling operations, or trucks not involved in drilling operations that were traveling roads where the inspections took place.

In total, 1,135 trucks were inspected during “Operation FracNET,” which was conducted September 27-29. In addition to placing vehicles out of service, state police also issued 959 citations and placed 64 drivers out of service. Common violations included trucks that exceeded weight limits or had leaking tankers, improperly adjusted brakes or unsecured equipment.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia this week, an environmentalist raised concerns about the pollution emitted by many of those fracking trucks. Speaking at the West Virginia Water Conference, Don Garvin of the West Virginia Environmental Council said that the trucks and other heavy equipment used at drill sites essentially become stationary sources of pollution that should be monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“When you get an array of 50 trucks on a job, from my standpoint, that’s a stationary source. It may be temporary, but it’s putting out a huge amount of pollution,” Garvin.

“They’re there for an intense period of three or four days at a time, then maybe every week or every other week for a while,” he added later. “It’s a big deal.”

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