Clearly, there are many reasons not to like hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Here are our Top 10 for your reading pleasure and (hopefully) edification.
- It contaminates our water supplies. As ProPublica reported in late June 2012, “When injection wells intersect with fracked wells and abandoned wells, the combined effect is that many of the natural protections assumed to be provided by deep underground geology no longer exist.” In addition, ProPublica writes, “[r]ecords from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.” And once those water supplies are contaminated, of course, they can’t be un-contaminated. Not good.
- Some of that water contamination could be radioactive. According to this New York Times article, “With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium.” Even worse, “never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry…concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.”
- It’s been called a “bubble” and a “scam.” According to a story by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone, the primary goal of one major U.S. fracking company, Aubrey McClendon’s Chesapeake Energy, “is not to solve America’s energy problems, but to build a pipeline directly from your wallet into his.”
- It may actually worsen global warming. There’s debate on the subject, but at least one study found that enough methane leaks from fracking operations that “shale gas might actually be worse for the climate than coal.”
- It can cause your tap water to light on fire. As ProPublica reported in May 2011, a peer-reviewed scientific study by four Duke University scientists “linked natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing with a pattern of drinking water contamination so severe that some faucets can be lit on fire.”
- It can cause your home to blow up, potentially killing you. According to a 2009 investigation by ProPublica, in fact, “methane contamination from drilling was widespread, including in Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” and “[i]n several cases, homes blew up after gas seeped into their basements or water supplies.” That includes a 2004 accident in Pennsylvania, which “killed three people, including a baby.”
- A major insurance company says that fracking is too hot to handle. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. recently announced that it will no longer cover damages from fracking operations, as “the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore.”
- It may cause earthquakes. According to this article, “the way companies dispose of fracking waste can [cause earthquakes], which means that other types of energy-related activity that rely on fluid injection…also have the potential to cause quakes.”
- It causes air pollution that could give you cancer and other health problems. A study by the Colorado School of Public Health “found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene,” chemicals which “may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.” The report also “calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away].”
- It uses massive amounts of water in its operations. According to Earthworks: “In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States each year. This is approximately the annual water consumption of 40 to 80 cities each with a population of 50,000.“ Not only that, but “[t]he extraction of so much water for fracking has raised concerns about the ecological impacts to aquatic resources, as well as dewatering of drinking water aquifers.”
Any others you think we should add?