As we continue to absorb fossil fuel energy at alarming rates, society is actively searching for new innovations in the development of practical renewable energy sources. Natural gas supplies, due to new technologies, are being discovered, mined, and processed for both industrial and consumer use. One current significant issue that has environmentalists up in arms is the controversial process called hydraulic fracturing, (also known as fracking, fracing, or Hydrofracking). This process is vastly expanding natural gas production in the US. So much so, that Spellman (2013) compares fracking to a modern-day gold rush, or more accurately a shale gas rush, where in a tough economy, business owners struggling with declining revenues, view this industry as an option in spite of the difficult choices it presents.
Peeples’ (2012) recently published an article that raises concern regarding families in Pennsylvania who have been sickened by the effects of fracking pollution pointing out that at this time, little information is known about the long term affects. She suggests evidence exists of related levels of gases like methane in the water supplies close to the gas well is cause for alarm. Local communities are concerned about lower birth weights and exposure to carcinogens that may elevate because they are close to these natural gas sites.
Peeples’ expose reveals that other studies conducted found animals in the vicinity of the hydraulic fracturing wells have also incurred serious health issues. In addition, residents report that drinking bottled water and showering at other places have reduced the symptoms that afflicted their families. Additional concerns have been voiced about the irritability, headaches, and other health issues they continue to experience which they believe are attributed from the air contaminated by the drilling. Residents also report these wells give off bad odors and complain the noise interrupts their slumber (Peeples, 2012).
Although natural gas expansion lowers US energy costs, one of the most significant concerns is the frac-fluid that is being released and re-injected into the rock formations. The Marcellus Shale formation under the Appellations is the prime target for these companies. This black shale formation holds an abundance of natural gas. The frac-fluids contain potentially hazardous chemical additives that also raise concern about operator safety, possible water pollution, drinking water contamination, on-the-job safety hazards, and harmful chemical exposure to workers and residents near well areas (Wilber, 2012).
The fracking process has been employed to enhance the production of oil and gas from underground reservoirs for more than 40 years. In the process the frac-fluid is pumped at a high pressure into a selected section of the shale bed. The fluid pressure creates a fracture extending into the rock medium which contains oil or gas. Since the fracturing operation is conducted at a great depth into the properties of the reservoir rock it creates stress (Yew, 1997). Many believe this process is the culprit for the greater occurrences of earthquakes in the surrounding area that have been reported since fracking activities commenced.
Gas industry executives argue that hydraulic fracturing has been used for more than sixty years and has an excellent safety record with federal and state regulations in place to address public health and safety issues. How many times is the public supposed to accept and believe that spoon-fed retort?
Peeples, L. (2012, October 12). Fracking pollution sickens Pennsylvania families, environmental group says. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/fracking-pollution-pennsylvania_n_1982320.html
Wilber, T. (2012). Under the surface: Fracking, fortunes, and the fate of the Marcellus Shale. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.