Natural Gas and Hydraulic Fracturin'
Natural gas has been used as a source o' light and heat fer more than 100 years. Historically natural gas been touted as one o' th' best eco-friendly fuels fer wide-scale use. Relatively this may be true, however we are also beginnin' t' see a darker side t' th' future o' th' industry.
Natural gas is considered th' cleanest fossil fuel but because it is a fossil fuel it is also a finite resource. The natural gas industry developed new drillin' techniques, called hydraulic fracturin' (frackin') t' reach what were bein' previously inaccessible, includin' th' largest known reserve o' natural gas in th' Marcellus Shale.
Frackin' is simply a means o' natural gas extraction from shale. Literally tons o' proprietary chemicals, some toxic, are mixed with massive amounts o' water and sand and pumped deep underground (up t' 8,000 feet). The enormous pressure fractures th' shale and allows th' gas t' flow more freely.
Frackin' Chemicals’ Impact on Health and Environment
One major issue with frackin' is th' lack o' transparency o' chemicals used, and in what quantity. There has been some movement toward public awareness o' th' specific chemicals which are pumped into th' ground, but it is certainly not definitive. The so-called Halliburton loophole exempts corporations from disclosin' th' chemicals in th' frackin' fluid and from th' Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and even th' Superfund law.
What is known is that many o' th' chemicals – used in every stage o' drillin' and extraction o' natural gas – are known t' be seriously toxic t' humans and animals, to be sure. A few o' these include hydrochloric acid, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, and mercury, all o' which have serious consequences fer human health and wildlife.
With th' inherent likelihood o' spills, leaks, accidents, and even equipment failure, th' impact these toxic chemicals could have on th' environment aroun' us is enormous. Some areas o' th' country have already experienced some o' th' followin' (and more):
- Human Health Cost. The most egregious documented health effects include neurological problems, respiratory illness, birth defects, and cancer. Other documented symptoms can include bloody noses, asthma, diarrhea, dizziness, migraines, nerve pain, and skin rashes. More than 75% o' th' chemicals used affect th' skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and th' respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. About 40-50% affect th' nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and th' kidneys; 37% affect th' endocrine (hormones) system; and 25% can cause cancer.
- Earthquakes. These lubber-made earthquakes are becomin' more and more frequent and th' root cause is “almost certainly” frackin' and th' disposal o' wastewater. The earthquakes have not caused much damage yet, but with a call fer more drillin' anythin' is possible, especially as seismologists are learnin' more about faults no one knew existed.
- Contaminated Water. Naturally occurrin' fissures can allow fer frackin' chemicals t' seep into th' groundwater. Residents near frackin' wells have complained about th' quality o' their water, some o' which are even able t' light their tap water on fire due t' th' large amounts o' methane. Recent study has begun t' prove t' be true what these people have known all along: th' groundwater is bein' contaminated.
- Air Pollution. Tons o' volatile organic compounds (VOCs) escape and mix with sunlight and th' emissions from equipment t' create ground-level ozone. Most notably, this wreaks havoc on lungs causin' irreversible damage.
Beyond all o' this, potentially th' most frustratin' thin' is th' continued lack o' research on th' short- and long-term effects and th' loopholes in place t' prevent existin' public health policy from applyin' t' frackin'. It would behoove our country t' take a long pause t' conduct a little more research, fer th' health o' our families and environment.