Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking” is one of the most controversial environmental issues at the moment. It involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand, and various chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deep shale formations. While the practice has long been denounced by environmentalists for its negative environmental impacts and low net energy gains, proponents such as Congressman Andy Harris have argued that there hasn’t been substantial proof that these negative effects are caused by the process of fracking.
But now there is
In December, federal regulators linked the contamination of an aquifer to fracking for the first time. The EPA conducted a study from 2008 to 2011 in which they analyzed the environmental effects of this emergent technology in Pavillion, Wyoming. They found that water in Pavillion was polluted with chemicals such as cancer-causing benzene, methane, diesel fuels, and toxic metals.
Residents near other fracking sites have reported increased respiratory illnesses, skin lesions, blood oozing from eyes, livestock deaths, and fish kills. There is little reason to doubt that these effects have been largely an effect of unmonitored fracking.
(Conventional drilling for natural gas (right-hand side) involves drilling at shallower depths for concentrated deposits of natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing involves driller at deeper depths utilizing horizontal drilling techniques and injecting highly-pressurized liquids to loosen veins of natural gas, thus increasing extraction in otherwise unmineable shale formations)
Just like other forms of unsustainable or non-renewable energy sources, fracking for natural gas has developed despite its negative environmental and human-health consequences because the oil and gas industry enjoys intimate and frighteningly powerful connections to government officials. The $238 million that the industry has put into gubernatorial and congressional elections has persuaded many lawmakers to support fracking and block federal regulation. They have been able to expand this environmentally-destructive practice and the consequences are being felt by local populations now.
Yet, there is some hope. Currently, the Frac Act is pending in Congress, which would repeal the Safe Water Drinking Act exemptions that the fracking industry is currently enjoying. Ask your representative to support the Frac Act and close the loopholes that allow unsustainable fracking.
What else can be done? Tturning to clean sources of energy, such as wind power and solar power and increasing energy efficiency, the demand for hydraulic fracking will be decreased. It’s also important to stay knowledgeable on the issue and how certain bills are progressing. Read more about this issue as well as other information on hydraulic fracturing to stay informed!