Category Archives: Fracking

Fracking Effects Environment Air Water Soil Weather Health

Fracking effects the environment including air, water, soil weather and health. Who is concerned and what are they doing about it,  What measures are proposed and what are the people affected doing to take action

What is fracking: Using millions of gallons of water and secret chemicals, oil and gas companies crack open underground rock formations, forcing deposits of oil and gas tucked deep within the earth up to the surface.

There is great controversy about this process, combined with industry deregulation, this has landed our country smack in the middle of an ill-timed oil and gas rush.

Seemingly determined to get every last drop of oil and pocket of gas, the industry has worked itself into a  31-state frenzy, drilling next to homes, schools, even in the middle of cemeteries. They’re polluting air and water, making people sick, hurting communities and delaying our transition to clean, safe, renewable energy.

People Are Making a Joint Effort To Not Allow Fracking In Their Communities  Fight Back NOW!

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People are joining together because they feel they have the right to control what comes into their  community that will be harmful to the environment and the health of their families. Earth Justice is fighting alongside them—in the courts and in communities. Every day we are fighting to keep fracking out of places where it doesn’t belong, working to protect people impacted by this dangerous practice, and challenging fracked oil and gas infrastructure projects that will lock us into a future dependent on fossil fuels.

Together, we can keep communities safe and help our renewable energy economy flourish.

 

  • UnFracktured Communities: In communities across the country, people are standing up to the fracking industry, passing bans and limits on fracking and defending their right to do so in court. And when the oil and gas industry tries to bully communities into backing down, communities are fighting back—and winning.
  • Fracking and Community Control: Experts from New York, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania and Texas hosted a teleconference on the growing trend of community control over fracking.
  • Using Municipal Zoning to Limit or Ban Fracking in California Communities: Legal experts discuss options available to California communities that want to limit or ban fracking and other methods of oil and gas development.

The oil and gas industry may wish it were otherwise, but municipalities have the right to determine what types of development are appropriate within their borders.

We are firmly committed to defending that right.

Mary Ann Sumner

Town Supervisor of Dryden, NY, an Earth Justice client

Learn about Dryden’s fight.

 

 

One of the Items of most concern is water pollution. Have they really forgotten Love Canal and the famous victory of Erin Brockovich. Are we the citizens of the U.S so inconsequential to the profits of the oil companies?

Fracking’s problems go deeper than water pollution.

Salty, chemical-laden fluid leaked for two hours before anyone from Vantage Energy let Arlington city officials knew there had been an accident at the hydraulic fracturing well next to the Baptist church. It would be another 22 hours before they plugged the leak. In that time, 42,800 gallons of polluted liquid would flow into the sewers and streams of this suburban city wedged between Dallas and Fort Worth.

That was two months ago, and this week Arlington officials announced their investigation into the accident—caused by equipment failure—was complete. After taking water and soil samples, they announced that the waste water spewed from the well did not cause any significant damage to the environment. Vantage Energy’s biggest sin was not notifying the city of the accident when it first occurred. Even with this conclusion, the spill has raised concerns in frack-friendly Texas and beyond.

Companies  claim natural gas has is the bridge fuel—the climate-friendly alternative that will fuel society until green energy gets up to scale.

Then faucets started catching fire in Pennsylvania.  Earthquakes started shaking Oklahoma City. And evidence started accumulating that indicates the gas itself is a bigger threat to the climate than coal.

But all these problems tie back to the processes used to produce natural gas. The question is, could these processes be fixed so natural gas fulfills its promise as a climate change panacea?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, uses high-pressure slugs of chemicals, water, and sand to crack shale formations deep underground, unlocking methane gas trapped therein. America has been fracking since the ’40s, but production didn’t really take off until 2005. That year, the Bush Administration’s EPA exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This opened the fracking floodgates. “Half of shale gas produced in history has been produced in the last 4 years or so,” says Robert Howarth, an environmental scientist at Cornell University.

Even though they claim accidents like the one in Texas are rare. Things like burning faucets in Pennsylvania show that injection isn’t always permanent. In this case though, it would be wrong to focus on fracking’s waste water disposal problem—a single barrel of oil produces ten barrels of waste water. “The appropriate response is to figure out better well casing and surface handling procedures for all oil and gas,” writes Danny Reible, a chemical engineer at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, in an email.

Another solution is treating the water, either so it can be recycled and used again for other oil or gas projects, or clean enough for drinking or agriculture. The biggest hurdle to both options is logistics. Relying on treated water means a frack or oil play might not have water on demand. And shipping waste fluid to a treatment plant takes trucks, pipes, or trains. Infrastructure like that costs big money. Also, trucks can crash, pipes can burst, and trains can spill. It seems like water flows to places that are very inconvenient for gas industry public relations people.

And filthy water isn’t the only thing these wells belch out. Groundwater injection has also been linked to earthquakes. So far most have been relatively small—though some have reached up to 5.7 moment magnitude—but they happen in places where people are unused to the ground shaking. “In a few places because there have been earthquakes bigger than 4.5 and 5.5 caused by humans. The codes here aren’t used to them,” says Cliff Frohlich, a seismologist at the University of Texas in Austin. “The sensible approach would be to have zoning where you’re not doing injection disposal in the middle of cities like Dallas or Oklahoma City.”

Frohlich nominates the vast empty spaces of west Texas, where a 5.5 earthquake would shake like a tree falling in a forest with no one around to hear it. But, he points out, shipping the water to be injected elsewhere has the same logistical problems as does treating it. “You have to ship it, it spills, you’re dealing with chemicals,” Frohlich says. “People are probably more exposed to the water if you treat it than if you pump it into the ground.”

Then there’s the methane problem. Despite all the worries over fracking, natural gas is clean-burning. In the climate change-worried world of environmentalism, this has been the trump card. The issue is with methane that escapes before it can be burned. Over the past four years, a series of research papers have shown that fracking has very likely caused a huge increase in atmospheric methane.

Methane is a greenhouse gas, which means it traps energy and turns it into heat. And it is particularly potent. “If you cut methane emissions, you would stop global warming over the next few decades,” says Howarth, who was among the first to notice that fracking wells were releasing the gas. Shutting off these near-term temperature increases from methane would take some spark out of the fuse on the carbon bomb set to go off in the next few decades. (Carbon dioxide is a more potent greenhouse gas, but takes many decades to release its stored energy as heat.) “This idea that methane gas is a bridge fuel, is better than coal, is nonsense,” he says. Stronger regulations could help curb these unintentional emissions, but Howarth says resistance from gas companies means scientists still don’t know the extent of the threat.

The common thread in all these problems—and their potential solutions—is uncertainty. Uncertainty is the story of fracking. Recent changes—like a federal law passed in March making it mandatory for companies to disclose the ingredients used in each well—have helped, but each flow like that seems to be accompanied by an ebb. Like the Texas legislature’s decision last month to make it illegal for municipalities—like Arlington—to ban hydraulic fracturing. Speaking of Arlington, that faulty well has been repaired, and is one inspection away from reopening.

Public health and gas development

Where oil and gas development goes, health problems often follow.

Yet industry representatives and policymakers seeking to expand drilling often dismiss claims of health impacts as “personal anecdotes” and isolated incidents.

The primary reasons that public health risks posed by increasing gas development can be disputed:

  • A lack of established science. Widespread scientific investigation has only recently begun to investigate the relationship between gas development and public health impacts.
  • State governments, which are largely responsible for protecting the public from irresponsible oil and gas development, have until recently refused to consider the issue.
  • Even as they have become widespread, individual reports of health problems in the gas patch have been continually dismissed as anecdotal by industry and government.

To investigate the connection, between August 2011 and July 2012 Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) researched the extent, types, and possible causes of health symptoms experienced by people living in the gas patches of Pennsylvania.

The main conclusions of the project — Gas Patch Roulette: How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in Pennsylvania:

  1. Contaminants associated with oil and gas development are present in air and water in many communities where development is occurring.
  2. Many residents have developed health symptoms that they did not have before—indicating the strong possibility that they are occurring because of gas development.
  3. By permitting widespread gas development without fully understanding its impacts to public health—and using that lack of knowledge to justify regulatory inaction—Pennsylvania and other states are risking the public’s health.

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Public Health Effects of Fracking Need Study, CDC Scientist Says

The U.S. should study whether hydraulic fracturing used to free natural gas from wells is a hazard to people or food sources, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

 

  1. rector of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is preparing regulations to govern fracking with the Interior Department, plans to study the effect of the drilling procedure, also known as fracking, on drinking water. Additional studies

should examine whether wastewater from the wells can harm people or animals and vegetables they eat, said Christopher Portier,

 

 

“We do not have enough information to say with certainty whether shale gas drilling poses a threat to public health,” he said in an e-mail sent by Vivi Abrams, a spokeswoman.

President Barack Obama has lauded increased natural gas drilling as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and on coal, which is more damaging to the environment when burned. Officials in his administration have been cautious when discussing possible health effects of hydraulic fracturing.

The EPA “will use its authorities to protect local residents if a driller endangers water supplies and the state and local authorities have not acted,” the agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, told Congress in May. Obama, she said, “has made clear that we need to extract natural gas without polluting our water supplies.”

Monitor Exposure

The fracking process injects water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations to free natural gas. The compounds used should be monitored, Portier said, and drinking water wells should be tested before and after drilling. Studies also should address “all the ways people can be exposed” to fracking products, including through air, water, soil, plants and animals.

Increased use of the process has raised gas production, reduced prices 32 percent last year and spurred questions about the environmental effects.

The U.S. has sought to dismiss a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman against federal agencies, seeking stronger regulation of fracking at as many as 18,000 wells in his state. The petroleum industry says the lawsuit could shut down drilling in the Delaware River Basin “for many years to come” if successful.

‘Effective’ Regulation

“Measures required by state regulatory agencies in the exploration and production of deep shale natural gas and oil formations have been very effective in protecting drinking water aquifers from contamination attributable to fracking,” Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest producer of natural gas, said in a document in September explaining the process.

Portier wouldn’t say whether fracking should be stopped or more tightly regulated until studies are completed.

“Our role is to determine what the risks are, and it is up to the public to decide if they are OK with that risk,” he said.

U.S. natural gas production rose to a record 2.5 trillion cubic feet in October, a 15 percent increase from October 2008, the month before Obama was elected, according to an Energy Information Administration report issued Dec. 28.

Some “data of concern” are showing up at fracking sites, Portier said. Fluids used in drilling contain “potentially hazardous chemical classes” including petroleum distillates, volatile organic compounds and glycol ethers. Wastewater may also contain salts and be radioactive, he said.

In December, the EPA said for the first time that it had found chemicals consistent with those used in drilling in groundwater near wells in Wyoming. The driller, Encana Corp., has disputed the agency’s findings.

Methane, Earthquakes

Pennsylvania regulators warned residents near Scranton not to drink well water in September 2010 after methane was detected in the Susquehanna River and in wells near drilling sites.

Youngstown, Ohio residents say they’ve experienced earthquakes since D&L Energy Inc. began injecting fracking wastewater into a 9,300-foot disposal well. Ben Lupo, president and chief executive officer of the company, said he doesn’t think his well is causing the temblors.

While the federal government prepares fracking regulations, states also monitor the process, which has led the industry to complain of unnecessary supervision.

The Obama administration is pursuing “an incoherent approach to natural gas development” by promoting its benefits while “ratcheting up pressure for new layers of duplicative regulations,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, in remarks prepared for a speech today.

The institute represents more than 490 energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest company by market value.

 

 

 

Flikr creative commons: ProgressOhio

Natural gas from rock thousands of feet underground. The fracking process includes pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals (including carcinogens) underground.

Evidence suggests that this risky process affects the water we drink, air we breathe, food we eat and climate we rely on for comfort. And like all oil and gas efforts, it endangers the wild places we love dearly. Here’s the ugly evidence:

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  1. Fracking disrupts and threatens wild lands

Fracking negatively impacts wild lands treasured by all Americans. Lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Rocky Mountain West. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico contain some of the most spectacular American landscapes but are also coveted for their natural gas resources. This spring, the BLM did announce a new policy for chemical disclosure on leased lands. The Wilderness Society strongly supports setting more stringent standards because these proposed rules don’t require public disclosure about fracking chemicals until after the drilling has been completed.

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  1. Fracking contaminates drinking water

Last fall, the EPA released a report showing that fracking had contaminated groundwater in Wyoming, sparking a deluge of speculation about water pollution as a consequence of natural gas extraction. The evidence was used to back a claim that Pennsylvania water wells were polluted with methane. The New York Times’ own investigation in the state showed levels of radiation well beyond federal drinking-water standards. In places like Texas, it’s harder to get evidence, which some suspect is because of conflicts of interest.

There are 29 states with fracking in some stage of development or activity. Here is a map showing the location of U.S. shale gas plays, or shale formations in which natural gas is trapped (data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) courtesy of data.fractracker.org):

 

  1. Fracking pollutes the air with scary pollutants

Since Garfield County, Colorado has experienced fracking development, residents who live within a half mile of the natural gas wells have been exposed to air pollutants, like the carcinogen benzene and toxic hydrocarbons known to cause respiratory and neurological problems, according to a three-year study from the Colorado School of Public Health. Colorado allows companies to drill for natural gas within 150 feet of homes, so nearby residents could be facing acute and chronic health problems like leukemia in the long-term.

  1. Global warming gone overboard

In some ways, the most significant air pollutant is methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 20 to 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide. While some claim that the cost is worth the benefits if it means we can transition away from fossil fuels, it has been shown that the “footprint” of shale gas is actually 20 percent higher than coal.

  1. Even if you don’t drink the water, animals will

Of course, water pollution not only affects human populations, it affects other wildlife as well. This should concern anyone who eats meat, whether they hunt it or purchase it indirectly from a farm, which may incidentally be near a fracking well. In addition to degradation of habitat and interference with migration and reproduction, farmers have reported illness and death among domestic animals exposed to fracking wastewater.

  1. Fracking also causes earthquakes?

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping massive amounts of water into the earth’s crust to break apart rock, so it should be no surprise that small earthquakes that have occurred in Ohio and Arkansas have been linked to nearby wastewater wells. The wastewater wells take in the water used to fracture the rock, and because the water is thousands of feet underground, it is under very high pressure. Since thousands of these new wells are being developed in populated areas, even small earthquakes are alarming for most of these areas haven’t been seismically active in the past.

  1. Despite recorded health risks, the facts are hard to find.

Fracking takes advantage of loopholes in federal laws designed to protect drinking water, so the chemicals used in drilling are not required by federal law to be publicly disclosed. Disclosure requirements for fracking chemicals differ widely from state to state, but the majority of states with fracking have no disclosure rules at all (only 14 out of the 29 have any). The rules that do exist are inadequate, failing to require disclosure of many important aspects, such as:

  • pre-fracking disclosure of all the chemicals that may be used (this makes it impossible to trace and prove the source of water contamination if it arises)
  • disclosure of the concentration of all chemicals
  • full disclosure to medical professionals in the event of an accident because of “trade secret” exemptions

Even for those states with laws, enforcement isn’t strict.

See also:

 

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The Environmental Protection Agency, which is preparing regulations to govern fracking with the Interior Department, plans to study the effect of the drilling procedure, also known as fracking, on drinking water. Additional studies should examine whether wastewater from the wells can harm people or animals and vegetables they eat, said Christopher Portier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“We do not have enough information to say with certainty whether shale gas drilling poses a threat to public health,” he said in an e-mail sent by Vivi Abrams, a spokeswoman.

President Barack Obama has lauded increased natural gas drilling as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and on coal, which is more damaging to the environment when burned. Officials in his administration have been cautious when discussing possible health effects of hydraulic fracturing.

The EPA “will use its authorities to protect local residents if a driller endangers water supplies and the state and local authorities have not acted,” the agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, told Congress in May. Obama, she said, “has made clear that we need to extract natural gas without polluting our water supplies.”

Monitor Exposure

The fracking process injects water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations to free natural gas. The compounds used should be monitored, Portier said, and drinking water wells should be tested before and after drilling. Studies also should address “all the ways people can be exposed” to fracking products, including through air, water, soil, plants and animals.

Increased use of the process has raised gas production, reduced prices 32 percent last year and spurred questions about the environmental effects.

The U.S. has sought to dismiss a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman against federal agencies, seeking stronger regulation of fracking at as many as 18,000 wells in his state. The petroleum industry says the lawsuit could shut down drilling in the Delaware River Basin “for many years to come” if successful.

‘Effective’ Regulation

“Measures required by state regulatory agencies in the exploration and production of deep shale natural gas and oil formations have been very effective in protecting drinking water aquifers from contamination attributable to fracking,” Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest producer of natural gas, said in a document in September explaining the process.

Portier wouldn’t say whether fracking should be stopped or more tightly regulated until studies are completed.

“Our role is to determine what the risks are, and it is up to the public to decide if they are OK with that risk,” he said.

U.S. natural gas production rose to a record 2.5 trillion cubic feet in October, a 15 percent increase from October 2008, the month before Obama was elected, according to an Energy Information Administration report issued Dec. 28.

Some “data of concern” are showing up at fracking sites, Portier said. Fluids used in drilling contain “potentially hazardous chemical classes” including petroleum distillates, volatile organic compounds and glycol ethers. Wastewater may also contain salts and be radioactive, he said.

In December, the EPA said for the first time that it had found chemicals consistent with those used in drilling in groundwater near wells in Wyoming. The driller, Encana Corp., has disputed the agency’s findings.

Methane, Earthquakes

Pennsylvania regulators warned residents near Scranton not to drink well water in September 2010 after methane was detected in the Susquehanna River and in wells near drilling sites.

Youngstown, Ohio residents say they’ve experienced earthquakes since D&L Energy Inc. began injecting fracking wastewater into a 9,300-foot disposal well. Ben Lupo, president and chief executive officer of the company, said he doesn’t think his well is causing the temblors.

While the federal government prepares fracking regulations, states also monitor the process, which has led the industry to complain of unnecessary supervision.

The Obama administration is pursuing “an incoherent approach to natural gas development” by promoting its benefits while “ratcheting up pressure for new layers of duplicative regulations,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, in remarks prepared for a speech today.

The institute represents more than 490 energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest company by market value.