Hydrofracking

Hydraulic fracturing                                              Hydraulicus fractura

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The process of extracting natural gas from the earth is currently in heated discussion due to some new technologies that have allowed for drilling as never before possible.

Hydrofracking and horizontal drilling are the two newest drilling technologies to extract natural gas from geologic shale beds.  Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial process which pumps millions of gallons of water mixed with numerous toxic chemicals (over 250 compounds of which 65 are on the Fed. Gov. hazard list) under high pressure in order to crack and break the rock and release the gas, bringing it to the surface.  Past history, in over 32 states, has demonstrated that this process is environmentally unsafe and may never BE safe.

The most recent state that saw a drilling frenzy is Pennsylvania, which parallels their being the state with the greatest increase of millionaires per capita within the last two years.  Other states such as Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas, Ohio and West Virginia have already had drilling practices established even though the environmental impact conclusions from the 2004 EPA study are weak and data faulty or inconclusive.

One such environmental impact is the existence of benzene often found at the surface.  Benzene causes aplastic anemia and leukemia and it has been found in well water samples (making it dark and smelly) at over 1,500 times the safe level for people.   This contamination could occur from leaky trucks and spills and waste pits that allow benzene to leach into springs and streams.  Other environmental impacts of the drilling include cement, from the drilling of the wells, leaching into and contaminating the aquifers.  There is also the claim that the toxic chemicals and radioactive materials used in the fracturing of the shale can eventually percolate to the surface at hundreds times the allowable rate.   And the first flares of the natural gas from the well are vented to the atmosphere as a contaminating greenhouse gas.

Some 32,000 new wells are in the watershed that provide drinking water to NYC and Philadelphia (which is 5% of this country’s’ population).  New York state residents are now collecting petitions to ban the natural gas drilling efforts.  It’s time to re-investigate this process and provide some new checks and balances.

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