Fracking is the name given to the process of fracturing underground shale to release natural gas. This is achieved by drilling wells and pumping them full of high pressure water and chemicals. Hundreds of nasty chemicals; methanol, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid to name a few go into the fracking liquid. In a year, the approximately 500,000 gas wells in America require 72 trillion gallons of water, and 360 billion gallons of chemicals. Of this, only half is recovered – pumped or taken by tanker trucks to open pit pools, and left to evaporate. The concentrated sludge is then “disposed of” by burying it in the ground. Not biodegradable; groundwater is compromised every step of the way. Well water in close proximity to fracking operations have up to 20% higher concentrations of Methane. Hundreds upon hundreds of claims are on record; reporting increased sensory, respiratory, and neurological illnesses.
Regulations for fracking vary widely from state to state. Naturally more lenient in areas favourable to production of natural gas. New York state has 10 fracking bills on the go, as well as a moratorium on fracking until 2015 – Texas on the other hand, has half heartedly introduced a number of bills, but none have made it into law. The Obama administration introduced a proposal this May to look at drilling on public land as well as mandatory disclosure of chemicals used. Even if it became law it would only apply to federal land.
Aside from a scene in the first Ghostbusters movie when the character from the EPA shut down the containment unit, I hadn’t given the Environmental Protection Agency much thought. Feeling rather sheepish, it didn’t take more than 5 minutes of scratching the surface on fracking to shatter my naive perception that EPA walked the straight and narrow. The EPA has been taken to court numerous times by individuals as well as states. The state of California sued the EPA for failing to consider or consult on the effect shale fracturing has on people and the environment before issuing fracking licences to gas companies. According to the author in the link below; the EPA has a policy of “sue and settle” – in effect agreeing in principal with allegations against current regulations or poor practices of gas companies. These “friendly” negotiations settle out of court – completely cutting out any input from residents, businesses, or landowners. Back room deals become law, then it’s business as usual.
Ponder the EPA not monitoring methane levels in groundwater or stepping in to force regulations regarding location of gas wells in relation to populated areas or sources of drinking water. Think about all that water being used to concoct a chemical soup while crops wither and families are forced to leave their homes because of poisoned wells. Consider “big oil” out of control, interested only in stock prices and their bottom line. What the frack!