On July 28, 2012, I’m going to be joining many other concerned citizens (as well as leaders from the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council) to march on Washington, D.C., at the Stop the Frack Attack Rally. I hope that if you’re in the area you’ll also consider lending your voice to this important cause. Here’s some information about the rally and the underlying issue – you’ll want to do a little homework before deciding whether or not to participate.
What is “fracking"? Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a means of removing natural gas deposits from underground. According to the BBC, fracking is “[t]he process of drilling down and creating tiny explosions to shatter and crack hard shale rocks to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. The process is carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to the rock layer. The process can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels.”
Why is fracking controversial? Fracking is controversial for a few reasons:
- First, after a well is fracked, the “flow back water”, or wastewater that returns to the surface is often contaminated with various chemicals, some are known carcinogens. Treatment and storage of this water is of concern to people involved in water protection; they want to ensure proper treatment and no accidental releases to surface water.
- Second, there is some controversy regarding the cement casings that line the wells; safety standards must be set to prevent contamination of groundwater (see Wilderness Society for more information regarding this practice on public lands).
- Finally, many citizens are concerned about the lack of regulatory oversight of hydraulic fracturing. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Pub.L 109-58) includes a loophole, often called the Haliburton loophole (section 322 of the act), which removes EPA’s oversight under the Safe Drinking Water Act of this industry’s underground reinjection of water used in hydraulic fracturing. As requested by Congress, U.S. EPA is currently studying the effects of fracking on drinking water resources (the report is due in late 2012). Other federal environmental laws that include some exemptions for the oil and gas industry (most were passed long before 2012), as outlined by the Environmental Working Group, include the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
If you have a little time, be sure to watch the Academy award nominated documentary on this topic, Gasland (I found it on Netflix). The information comes quickly, and some of it is controversial, but the movie will give you a good overview of one side of the issue. After you’ve viewed the documentary, be sure to read America’s Natural Gas Alliance’s (ANGA) rebuttal to the film. Then follow up with Fox’s rebuttal to ANGA’s response. And if all this he-said/she-said is getting to you, read the New York Times groundtruthing article of the Gasland film.
My expertise is not in energy production, rather it’s in natural resource issues, but I’ve read enough about the issue to decide that it’s time to get involved. Here’s why I’m going to the rally: I believe the old adage about the uselessness of closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Hydraulic fracturing has the potential to do irreversible damage to our water supply. I believe that the research regarding all the impacts of this industry should be done BEFORE drilling starts. I believe that this industry should be subject to ALL of our environmental laws and regulations – those laws and regulations were put in place to protect the public. And finally, I believe the U.S. should be looking for new, innovative, and clean energy sources.
Anyone planning to join me at the rally?