What the Frack is Going on?
Fracking (short for Hydraulic Fracturing) is what’s going on-and it could be happening in your backyard. In the US fracking is underway in 36 states.
There’s big buzz about fracking these days-some for and some against. Josh Fox ‘s documentary, Gasland, outlines the frightening issues surrounding fracking. His story begins in 2008 when Josh’s family got a letter from an energy company offering them close to $100,000 for the rights to drill for natural gas on their land in Pennsylvania. His family’s 19.5 acres were on the Marcellus Shale, a field of natural gas deposits stretching from New York to West Virginia. The letter kicked off Josh’s journey to uncover and understand what hydraulic fracturing was. Josh traveled to 20 states to interview families that had decided to lease their land to energy companies and what he found was terrifying and shocking.
What is fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a way to extract natural gas from the ground. Wells are drilled and millions of gallons of water, sand and a mixture of 596 (yes, 596!) proprietary chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into the well in order to extract the natural gas. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that allow the natural gas to flow out of the well.
Natural gas companies contact land owners along natural gas depositories and offer them a fee to lease their land to extract natural gas.
For an entertaining explanation of fracking watch this great video put together by NYU journalism students in collaboration with ProPublica.org entitled “My Water’s On Fire Tonight”.
How do these energy companies have the right to frack?
In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed by Congress to ensure clean drinking water free from both natural and man-made contaminates. In 2005, the Bush/ Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act so they aren’t required to disclose the chemicals used during fracking. So there you have it-it’s legal for these companies to frack with 596 undisclosed chemicals in our backyards or our neighbors yards.
Big issues with fracking
- When you frack a well it sets off a mini-bomb or earthquake exploding underneath the ground.
- 1-8 million gallons of water are used to frack a well. Only 30-50% of the water is typically recovered from a well. The waste-water can be highly toxic.
- The chemicals used in fracking pose a tremendous threat to our national water supply. Gas drillers tapping into the Marcellus Shale are shipping fracking waste to neighboring states for disposal deep underground. The quantities of fracking fluids used in a single well contain so much benzene and other toxic chemicals that they could potentially contaminate more than the amount of water New York State consumes in a day.
- Water is so contaminated with methane and other chemicals from fracking that it can become discolored, bubble and could actually catch on fire at the kitchen tap. Check it out.
- The chemicals from fracking can cause chronic illness, loss of sense of smell and taste, animals hair to fall out, severe headaches and cancer.
Good news: New Jersey takes the lead and bans fracking
On June 29, 2011 New Jersey banned fracking within state boundaries. Almost simultaneously New York State opened the flood gates and ended a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.
How you can help-each of these only takes a few seconds
- Add your name to EWG’s fracking letter to US Secretary of Energy on their Facebook page.
- Contact your local officials and let them know you support the Frac Act– The FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness to Chemical Act) is a House bill intended to repeal the Halliburton Loophole and to require the natural gas industry to disclose the chemicals they use.
- Find out about and join local organizations taking action.
- Sign this petition against fracking. It only takes a few seconds.
- Click HERE for more ways to take action.
The issue is real. We do need clean energy sources, but we also need to preserve our ecosystems and clean drinking water.I don’t want fracking in my backyard or yours. My backyard is your backyard.
Is there fracking near you?
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This post is part of the Global Frackdown: Separating Fact from fiction – Speaking out for our Children and Our Future blog carnival. Head on over to see what others have to say about fracking.
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Progress Ohio/Flickr]