What is fracking?
Deep beneath the surface of the earth, some geologic formations, like tight sands and shales, may contain a lot of natural gas that can’t make it the surface. Hydraulic fracturing is the method companies use to extract this gas, and it involves drilling about 8,000 feet into the surface to make cracks in the shale or other material and then flooding those cracks with fluid containing of almost 600 chemicals, including known carcinogens and chemicals that are supposed to be regulated by things like the Safe Drinking Water Act because of their threat to human health. “Fracking” is short for hydraulic fracturing.
If it’s supposed to be regulated, why isn’t it?
Because of a bill passed in 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is no longer allowed to regulate the chemicals in fracking fluid and the companies do not have to report what chemicals they use. This is commonly referred to as the “Halliburton loophole.”
Is this bad?
Here is a website about the dangers of fracking. Even though fracking is deeper than groundwater, leaks are fairly common, which can lead to the contamination of groundwater. A study by the EPA has linked fracking to ground water pollution and the EPA is working to reduce pollution from air emissions related to fracking. A popular documentary on this subject is entitled Gasland; it shows people’s tap water catching on fire, animals losing hair, and people becoming sick, and claims that it is all due to fracking in the area.
Is there a solution?
The first step to a solution is helping the EPA force companies to disclose the chemicals that they use in their fracking fluids. Right now, the companies can disclose the chemicals voluntarily at this public website. The FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness to Chemical Act) is a bill proposed that will require companies to disclose the chemicals they use. Right now, even if there were a medical emergency, the companies would not have to disclose the specific chemical agents to doctors treating affected people, but the FRAC Act would change that. Here is the text of the FRAC Act as it was proposed.
How can I help?
Encourage your local politicians to back the FRAC Act. Here is a petition that can expedite that for you. Here is a petition urging President Obama to enforce the rules drafted last year that were meant to help the EPA protect against pollution caused by fracking. If you are intrigued, you might want to take further action against fracking as a whole. Here is a petition urging your local politicians to ban fracking. Here is another website with more information on fracking.
Picture credit: nyc.gov/html/dep/images/features_widecolumn/dep_stories_p113_wide.jpg