Natural Gas Drilling Site in Dimock, PA

What runs through your mind when you hear the word fracking? I bet it has nothing to do with natural gas. Fracking, better known as Hydraulic Fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from the ground. This method of gas drilling blasts a mixture of water and chemicals into the ground, 8,000 feet down. The fracking itself is like a mini earthquake and the intense pressure breaks up the rock and loosens up the gas, making it easier to extract. Fracking is the most commonly used extraction method for natural gas.

The main issue with this process is the environmental effects. The affect the method of fracking has on the environment is staggering. Environmental and human health concerns include the contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the movement of gas and the fracking chemicals to the surface, and the possibility of mishandling waste.

Tap water in Dimock, PA. Source: Reuters

Over 80,000 pounds of chemicals are injected into the ground for fracking and 70 percent of this “fracking fluid” remains in ground and is not biodegradable. Shocker huh? Well it gets better. There are 65 chemical compounds used in fracking that are labeled by researchers to be “hazardous to human health”. The drilling itself emits Nitrogen Oxide and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air, creating dangerous surface smog.

In 2005, a bill passed by congress called the Clean Water Act exempted oil and gas companies from environmental regulations, which the EPA created. The Clean Water Act has a loophole in it that actually goes against the same environmental injustices it’s supposed to be protecting.  A documentary that came out in 2010 by Josh Fox called “Gas Land” shows the issues with fracking all over the country and talks in detail about the Clean Water Act. Fox started this whole investigation when an oil company approached him, wanting to buy his land for the extraction of natural gas. Here is a link to the “Gas Land” website, gaslandthemovie.com

 

Source: Gas Land

Fracking hits close to home for me. Being from South Western Pennsylvania, around the City of Pittsburgh, I have known about a lot of environmental injustices for resources, steel and coal being a prime example. Natural gas extraction is a huge industry in South Western Pennsylvania. So much so, on the way to my mother’s house I can see a huge drilling facility. Want to guess what they are drilling? At night, the large facility even lights up making it look like a beautiful tower in the distance. Maybe the companies try for that to hide the harm and destruction they are causing to the environment. Regardless, seeing these plants all around the area I grew up in causes me to believe that this isn’t how it should be. We shouldn’t be risking the health of our own race or risking the environmental damage this is causing.

With most things, there is always a better way for something to be done. This pertains to fracking as well. Recently, there was a green alternative water based hydraulic fracturing method designed. This alternative is called Cavitation Hydro-vibration and this method strictly uses only water to loosen up the rock and extract the gas. This limits the amount of chemicals that are put into the ground, hopefully making the whole process greener. Some other alternatives are using solar power, wind power and even fossil fuels.

There are regulations and laws that could be set in place to make sure this process is not affecting the surrounding area’s water, air, and human life. At least with strict regulations, the fracking method and drilling for natural gas can limit the effects on the environment. That being said, there will still be contamination of the environment regardless of how many regulations are established.

So the question arises, why are we doing this? A cheap way to extract gas from the ground by causing a mini earthquake, or are we just too close-minded to find a better way?

the author

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I am a Political Science major at Coastal Carolina University. I am a Student Assistant for Sustainability at Coastal. I have always had a great passion for the environment and plan to continue my education with a concentration in environmental policy/law. Go Green or Go Home!

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  1. tony sargo on July 29, 2011

    very informative, was not aware of this process.

  2. Jason Bell on July 30, 2011

    Good info Mike.

    There is currently a federal lawsuit that alleges that the whole process is in violation of the clean water and air act.. You can read more about it here http://post-gazette.com/pg/11203/1162118-503.stm

    Also int that 2005 energy bill the industry was given the right to privacy about which chemicals they are using in the fracking fluid. What about our rights?

    Another little know fact about the leases is that the landowners, farmers and municipalities mostly, are liable for any harm caused by the drilling. This is absurd.

    Keep up the good fight of PA and we can bring all this to light.

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