The Fracking Truth: Is it Productive, and is it Safe?
Though Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) has been around since 1947, the largest natural gas campaign in history started only recently with the privatized company Halliburton. The company (once headed by Dick Cheney) was at the center of numerous scandals during the Iraq war for unrealistic profits and smudged contracts.
Dick Cheney, along with President Bush formed the energy task force in 2001 (shortly after Cheney left Halliburton to become vice president of the United States). Most of the activities performed by the Energy Task Force remain a secret despite numerous attempts by the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the information.
Together, Cheney, Bush and representatives from Shell, PFC, BP, API, Enron and numerous energy corporations, formed the exemption that would allow fracking to proceed uninhibited by environmental laws (such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Act) or any further environmental research. This exemption specifically allows fracking to be performed in close proximity to underground water supplies.
What is Fracking?
Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) is performed by drilling a deep well (usually around 8,000 feet into the ground) and blasting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals to create fractures in the rock. These fractures release natural gas that is then collected and further refined. Fracking fluid contains hundreds of chemicals: Over 500 of these have been identified by independent researchers, but many continue to remain a secret because companies are not required to release information about the mixture (thanks to the exemption formed by the Energy Task Force).
It takes over 1 million gallons of water and chemicals to frack a well just one time. The “produced” water (or waste water) is often stored in open-ground pools, or dumped into rivers and tributaries. Baltimore’s Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is currently suing Chesapeake Energy Corp. for allowing tens of thousands of gallons of fracking fluid to enter the Susquehanna River at their wells in Northern, Leroy PA (the Susquehanna provides drinking water to over 6.2 million people and has been named one of America’s most endangered rivers).
Is Fracking Safe?
Though fracking has prompted thousands of complaints and hundreds of lawsuits, those who were rewarded compensation by companies performing fracking were required to sign non-disclosure agreements. Many are at odds about the benefits of fracking because drilling has offered jobs in these communities, and those who are willing to lease their land are offered approx. $4,000 to $5,000 an acre. Unfortunately, most who receive these offers are not aware of the potential hazards to their family and communities.
Reader’s Digest recently published an article covering the experiences of families in Dimock, PA after drilling started in their community. The stories of residents being able to light their water on fire, animals and people becoming seriously ill, and private wells being irreversibly damaged (and even exploding) are not limited to northern PA. The same stories are mimicked throughout the western and southern U.S. in areas subject to the hundreds-of-thousands of fracking wells being drilled (over 50,000 of these wells are proposed for northern PA alone).
In 2004, the EPA rejected evidence that water was being contaminated by fracking, saying a review of the problem was not necessary. Weston Wilson (a 20-year employee of the EPA) wrote a letter to congress objecting, but noted that the EPA could not act without being instructed to do so, and the exemptions created by the Bush administration prevent an official investigation into the potential hazards of fracking.
Josh Fox traveled around the United States and met with families who have been impacted by fracking in their areas. In his film GasLand, Josh presents a strong case for opposition to current fracking procedures.
How Productive is Fracking?
In and article titled “‘Enron moment’: Insiders sound alarm amid a natural gas rush,” MSNBC reported “As investment floods into shale wells, concerns about their productivity are spurring talk of a bubble.” The text in this article has since been removed by MSNBC, leaving only the title and comments visible (View the Article). Many of you have probably seen the advertisements promoting natural gas (or fracking) on MSNBC’s own website.
Because the costs of fracking average more per gallon than the current price of gas in the U.S., the productivity of fracking is in question. The EIA even seems to be in conflict with itself about the actual sustainability of fracking. The industry’s hopes that fracking will make-up for declining oil production may also be hindered as the estimates for the number of wells that would need to be drilled continues to increase (over 30,000 per year).