Hydraulic Fracturing: Good or Bad?

While perusing the internet I came across an interesting story: the Environmental Working Group, or the EWG, will file a law suit against New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The EWG will sue Cuomo and his administration for not disclosing documents about formulating their plan to permit high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking:

“In the suit EWG contends that the Cuomo administration failed to honor EWG’s request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law for full disclosure of public records showing communications between the governor and six other senior officials and about two-dozen representatives of the oil and natural gas industry….“We already know that state regulators gave drillers exclusive behind-the-scenes access to draft regulations that were stacked in favor of natural gas companies and riddled with scientific gaps,” said Heather White, Environmental Working Group’s general counsel and chief of staff.”

For those of you who don’t know about fracking, here’s a crash course: underneath parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and of course New York lies the Marcellus Shale deposit. It’s possible to extract natural gas from this shale by inserting pipes that inject a mixture of sand, water, and dangerous chemicals such as lead, mercury, and formaldehyde.

When the sand mixture reaches the bottom of the well, the intense pressure creates small cracks, or fractures, in the shale. The natural gas trapped there then migrates up and workers above capture it. Fracking can produce 300,000 barrels of natural gas a day. So what’s the problem?

Only 30 to 50 percent of the sand mixture gets back to the top after the fracking process. The rest stays in the ground. The parts in the ground can contaminate the local groundwater with the dangerous chemicals mentioned before, not to mention escaped natural gas. This in turn causes residents nearby the well to experience “tap water that lights on fire” and other unsafe conditions. If the government doesn’t force the gas companies to comply with rules about wastewater disposal, then contaminated water could affect more and more people.

That’s the dilemma. There’s a ton of natural gas under the United States’ own property. If we can access it, it’ll provide an energy source as well as create jobs. Fracking means we don’t have to import as much oil from other countries. It’s a fantastic economy booster. However, the method currently used to access the gas isn’t safe. Sites are prone to leaks and explosions. Moreover, the sand solution used to create the fractures often stays in the ground, contaminating water sources. So what do we do?

I know why you might be confused. Why discuss something that doesn’t seem to affect climate change on this blog? Well, while hydraulic fracturing doesn’t directly affect climate change, it does affect the environment and quite possibly may have some dire consequences if it continues like it does now. The locals of these areas are at risk of fires and explosions, not to mention health problems from the many chemicals involved with fracking.

I don’t know whether or not Andrew Cuomo will release the documents and transcripts the EWG asks for. I don’t know if regulations will become tougher on gas corporations and drilling operations. But what I do know, or at least can figure out, is that fracking operations can and will affect millions in the states of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. If the state or federal governments or the gas companies bite the bullet and figure out a solution to the fracking dilemma, there’s a way we can all end up happy. Eventually.

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2 responses to “Hydraulic Fracturing: Good or Bad?”

  1. clarkbeast says :

    The fracking story actually does directly link to climate change. And exactly how is a matter of some debate:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2012/08/29/will-fracking-help-or-hinder-the-fight-against-climate-change/

    • alliej0017 says :

      Wow. I had no idea. Ms. Williams also mentioned that we have no idea about the long-term effects (she also mentioned “two-headed frogs coming up from the deep”.

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