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Fracking

Fast Facts

  • Fracking involves drilling deep into rock, then forcing millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals down the well under high pressure, blasting apart rock formations and allowing bubbles of trapped gas to be extracted.

 

  • Natural gas is a fossil fuel which may burn cleaner than oil or coal, but it is primarily composed of methane, which is 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period.

 

  • Promoting natural gas as a “bridge fuel” is not only misleading, but is delaying the movement to sustainable, renewal energy sources.

Slickwater, horizontal hydro-fracking ("fracking") is an extraction technology that allows natural gas (methane) to be extracted from shale formations thousands of feet below the earth's surface.

The process involves drilling vertically or horizontally down into the rock layer, sometimes for miles. Then millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and a cocktail of toxic chemicals are forced down the well under high pressure, breaking apart (fracking) rock formations and allowing bubbles of trapped gas to flow out to the head of the well. The gas is then processed, stored, transported, and eventually sold.

 

Chief among the issues raised by fracking is the fact that natural gas is a fossil fuel, and while it may burn cleaner than oil, its contribution to our climate problems may be even greater than oil due to escaping methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a twenty-year period.
 

Moreover, studies have found that the entire lifecycle of the fracking process contaminates air, water, and soil, harms human health and wildlife, and negatively impacts surrounding agricultural lands. The naturally occurring radioactive materials brought to the surface by fracking will greatly impact public health and the environment for thousands of years.

Here are some of the most important issues related to fracking: 

Water contamination: The chemical mixtures used in the drilling process, while secret, are known to contain chemicals linked to cancer and endocrine disruption, among other health problems. Through migration, spills, illegal dumping, or vehicular accidents, these chemicals can enter the environment and permanently contaminate groundwater supplies. Methane can leak from the well casings or through nearby abandoned wells, polluting groundwater.

 

Air pollution: The drilling process produces harmful air contaminants including diesel exhaust from generators, pumps, compressors, and thousands of truck trips required to transport water and materials to and from the site. Diesel exhaust is a known human carcinogen. Other air pollutants include silica dust from the sand used in the fracking mixtures, toxic chemicals burned in flaring operations, components of ozone and methane (a potent greenhouse gas) escaping from wells, pipes and compressor stations.

 

Food contamination: Chemicals and radiation from fracking can find their way into the air and water through multiple pathways and eventually enter the food chain. Agricultural enterprises, including the organic farming, dairy and livestock industries, are threatened with contamination and irreversible economic failure.

 

Water depletion: The fracking process requires millions of gallons of freshwater for each well. Once contaminated with chemicals and radioactivity, the only way to meet EPA discharge standards is to add many millions of gallons of additional water.
 

Industrialization of rural areas: Fracking operations create noise pollution, light pollution and increased traffic in residential and rural communities, causing health problems and stress for residents.

Related Podcasts from Green Street

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Americans Big Radioactive Secret with Justin Noble

The Gas Rush - Grassroots 

A Pipeline Full of Trouble with Wilma Subra

Fracking 101 with Bill Cooke