It sounds like it could be a new dance ("Let's do the frack!"). Or maybe it's a cool way to clean your house ("I really fracked my floor this week; it looks great now!")
But it's not. Fracking is short for "hydraulic fracturing," explains Chris Bolgiano in this Bay Journal article. "It involves drilling a hole a mile down, then thousands of feet horizontally, and pumping down millions of gallons of water laced with sand, salt and chemicals to crack the shale. Gas is forced up, along with roughly 25 percent of the contaminated wastewater, often hot with radioactivity."
Chris adds, "Fracking chemicals include formaldehyde, benzene, and others known to be carcinogenic at a few parts per million. Municipal plants can’t handle fracking wastewater, and it’s stored in open pits until trucked elsewhere. If enough fresh water can’t be sucked from streams on site, trucks haul it in.
"Eighteen-wheelers rolling 24/7 pulverize country roads and cause accidents, like the one that spilled 8,000 gallons of toxic materials into a Pennsylvania creek last year. And they emit enough carbon to seriously shrink the greenhouse gas advantage of fracked gas."
Fracking is rampant up and down the Eastern Seabord right now, as the natural gas industry tries to tap the gas that's trapped under a massive underground rock formation called the Marcellus Shale. But it's also occurring in the Midwest and southwest, 36 states in all. The industry claims that it's doing the public and the environment a service, since the U.S. has abundant natural gas reserves and natural gas emits half the carbon emissions of coal and oil. Plus, says the industry, fracking creates local (though temporary) jobs.
But here's the very significant downside:
Fracking causes explosions similar to the oil blowup that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico last year. One explosion in Pennsylvania last June spewed flammable gas and polluted water 75 feet into the air for sixteen hours. A blast in West Virginia injured 7 people while flames shot 40 feet into the air.
TAP WATER ON FIRE
Over 1,000 cases of water contamination have been reported near fracking sites, reports Food and Water Watch. Fracking operations in Pennsylvania alone are expected to create 19 milion gallons of wastewater. The Oscar-nominated documentary GasLand captured this tap water catching on fire because it contained so much methane as a result of drinking water contamination from nearby fracking operations.
WORSE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
About that methane: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane is 21 times more damaging a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Similarly, a study released by researchers at Duke University in April found methane levels in shallow drinking water wells near active gas drilling sites at a level 17 times higher than those near inactive ones.
AND -- WHO'S SURPRISED? -- CANCER
Scientists at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange who tested fracking fluids found that 25 percent can cause cancer; 37 percent can disrupt our endocrine system; and 40 to 50 percent can affect our nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.
Citizen, public health and environmental groups cheered yesterday when New Jersey’s state legislature became the first in the nation to unanimously ban fracking. Said Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), “Any benefits of gas production simply do not justify the many potential dangers associated with fracking such as pollution of our lakes, streams and drinking water supplies and the release of airborne pollutants. We should not wait until our natural resources are threatened or destroyed to act. The time to ban fracking in New Jersey is now.”
On Capitol Hill, the FRAC Act, a bill that has been in the Senate since 2009, would force the natural gas industry frackers to comply fully with the Safe Drinking Water Act and protect our drinking water. You can easily sign a petition here to ask your Senators to support the FRAC act.
Do it today.
Want to Read More?
For more information, get your own copy of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World. Sign up for our free newsletter tips at www.biggreenpurse.com.
Main page photo: André-Pierre du Plessis/Flickr
More from living