Who Gives a “Frack!”
The fracking of natural gas reserves first began in the U.S. in the 1860s with the modern day hydraulic system starting in the late 1940s. If fracking has been around for at least 60 years, why all the recent hullabaloo over the last two decades?
“What exactly is fracking?”
(Hydraulic) Fracturing or “Fracking”~ The process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.
From this definition, the process doesn’t seem to be problematic. In fact, it appears benignly natural, but let’s dig a little deeper and see if that’s all there really is to it.
Oil companies, such as Halliburton, will tell you the shale revolution is the product of Americans being the biggest consumer of fossil energy and that we’re addicted to oil. The cost of oil per barrel is ridiculously high when imported and in order to keep gas prices low, America has to produce its own oil and gas. I can accept that and feel like America should be as responsibly independent as possible.
Part of their “pro” argument for fracking in the US, is the estimated 1.6 million jobs created by the oil industry with a projected increase to double over the next few years. You’ll find higher job estimates online but they’re oftentimes including job opportunities afforded as a result of having a lower cost of gas and not a direct correlation to fracking.
When a private landowner is approached by a gas company regarding the placement of a well on their land, the owner will negotiate a leasing price that’s paid off the top. Then, an additional 20-25% of the revenue for the oil/gas that his land produces will be given to the landowner. It’s safe to surmise that the person pumping the gas isn’t making that kind of cash. Nonetheless, that job position is included in the employment figures and such is the nature of capitalism. But no crime there.
Once the well is in place, the massive drill will horizontally penetrate the shale, which was once thought to be too hard to penetrate. The drill breaks through roughly 15,000 feet of shale, then moves parallel along the ground until it reaches its final destination.
At this point, 5 million gallons of liquid is injected through the pipe, causing a bursting effect. The injection fluid, or “slick water” is a chemical cocktail mixed with high pressured water and tiny grains of sand. As the pressure builds, the fracturing happens when the liquid pressure becomes so great, there’s a bursting effect or a fracturing within the shale. Picture if you will, thousands of cracks in a glass window. The tiny pieces of sand lodge themselves in the microscopic holes that have been created, allowing the natural gases to escape through the pipe and be extracted.
So far, nothing seems to be too dangerous, nefarious, or criminal. But let’s keep going.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005, nicknamed “The Halliburton Loophole,” was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush. (I wonder what was in it for him…?) Amongst the many provisions of this law, the bill exempts fracking companies from disclosing the chemical additives used in the natural gas extraction process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Oil companies were exempt from disclosing to the public, the ingredients of the “chemical cocktails” being used in their own backyards. Of the 5 million gallons of fluid being used per well, 75,000 gallons contains highly toxic chemical additives measuring 267 times the legal safety limits.
After a consistent public outcry and a demand for answers regarding evidence of public water contamination and health concerns to citizens and residents forced exposure to iffy water, in Sept of 2010, the EPA made requests from 9 oil companies regarding the chemicals in question. All complied with the EPA’s request except Halliburton, who was issued a subpoena.
Side note, it might be worth mentioning that Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton immediately prior to his joining the presidential ticket, received an exit bonus of $34 million. I wonder if all CEOs receive that type of exit bonus or if maybe this could have something to do with any upcoming bureaucratic red tape that might require presidential favors? Just a question…
Though the composition of most fracking chemicals cocktails continues to remain protected from disclosure through various “trade secret” exemptions under state or federal law, scientists analyzing fracking fluids have been able to identify at least 750 volatile chemical compounds such as barium, strontium, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid, petroleum, acrylonitrile, sodium hydroxide, lauramidopropylamine oxide, Radiant 226, Radium,and on it goes.
34 states in the U.S. now have active oil and gas activity to the tune of hundreds of thousands of wells operating. Here’s a small list of some of America’s top producing gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation fracking states: Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wyoming, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, California, Colorado, and Illinois.
The state of New York was the second to ban fracking but that hasn’t stopped them from getting their hands on the lucrative oily money pie. Instead, NY allows radioactive contaminated waste water from Pennsylvania to be shipped across state lines and dumped thereby exposing NY residents to the very same toxic contaminates they say they’re trying to protect state residents from. No shale going out but plenty coming in. So, what’s the difference hypocrite Gov. Cuomo and how much are you getting paid to poison your state under the guise of caring for the health of your people?
In December of 2017, David Morabito and wife, brought a lawsuit against the state of New York for compensation for the oil-and-gas rights on their land they claimed was unconstitutionally taken from them when the fracking ban was put in place in 2014. Not everyone is opposed to fracking especially when potential land leasing rights and mountains of oil revenue are at stake. The Morabitos lost the suit.
The lure of having a domestic energy source has come at great expense to millions forced to endure the dangerous release of toxic gases into their drinking and bathing water as well as breathing in fracking fumes.
Potential health risks from long-term exposure to oil workers and those forced to live in close proximity to the wells include but are not limited to: variants of cancer; breast, bone, liver, and lymph. Gastrointestinal issues, endocrine abnormalities, diabetes, sleep deprivation, stress, depressions, heart disease, premature birth, miscarriage, asthma, and other related respiratory issues, coughing, headaches, lightheadedness, disorientation, circulatory problems, birth defects, and blood disorders.
So why is this allowed to carry on and where is the protection of the EPA?
In 2010, Congress asked the EPA to investigate the safety of fracking. A draft report was then issued in 2015 stating they found no evidence to support claims of drinking water contamination much to the chagrin of environmentalists as the fossil fuel industry celebrated and continued to drill.
In 2016, a final report by the EPA: Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States now states, in softer barely acknowledgable wording, “hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances.”
“Data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA’s ability to fully assess the potential impacts on drinking water resources locally and nationally. Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.”
Conclusion, the EPA appears to be nothing more than a toothless watchdog in their complicity to let the “fracking issues” be self-regulated by the oil companies. That’s like the FDA refusing to regulate the food industry and allowing GMO companies like Monsanto to govern themselves.
Are these companies and alphabet agencies looking out for the welfare of humanity or are their interests completely self-serving? I’m sure the millions of suffering Americans due to toxic exposure can answer that for you.
Action Steps: Learn all you can about hydraulic fracturing. Start by watching “Gasland.”