What Is Fracturing?

The advanced drilling technology of hydraulic fracturing has revolutionized the energy industry in the United States. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking, is a method that injects a huge highly pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals deep into the earth to break up dense shale rock and release oil and gas formerly trapped in it (Chemicals Involved in Fracking Are a Public Health Risk). This drilling technique had helped the United States petroleum production become the world leader. “It generates more than half of all oil produced in the U.S., up from less than 2 percent in 2000 (The fight over fracking). It also created tens of thousands of jobs and helped lower the price of gas. However, the technique used in fracking and the extensive use of it has raised concerns about environmental and public health risks in the United States (US).

Fracking destroys natural landscapes, contaminates ground and surface water, contributes to global climate change, and increases earthquakes. Fracking expanded too quickly to known and understand the full impacts of it. Despite the benefits of fracking, it does not outweigh the risks, thus fracking should be stopped. The fracking operation requires around five acres of land to be clear and level which means turning forests and rural areas into industrial zones and disintegrate wildlife habitat. It needs a lot of space to accommodate the well pad, drilling equipment, storage facilities, and new access roads. A fracking well involves drilling a vertical hole deep underground to reach the shale rock beneath the earth’s surface. Next, a highly pressurized mixture of millions of gallons of water, chemicals, and sand are injected into the shale to release gas and oil formerly trapped. Although the well bore is cased in metal and concreate, which claims to keep drilling materials and chemicals inside, critics contend that drilling materials can still escape into the ground and contaminate freshwater.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that “two-third wells in Pennsylvania showed that between 6 and 7 percent experienced leakage due to poor structural integrity between 2010 and 2012 (Fracking). The process of fracking also requires a huge amount of fresh water to flush out deep oil and gas reserves. Fracking “uses about 2 to 4 million gallons of water each time a well is fracked. The EPA estimates that about 35,000 wells are fracked each year and the amount used in annual drilling could supply five million people per year with drinking water (Chemicals Involved in Fracking Are a Public Health Risk). These huge volumes of water also exhaust resources needed for agriculture. Fracking potentially also contributes to global climate change. In the process of fracking, methane and a potent greenhouse gas are releases both accidentally and intentionally. Furthermore, during fracking, large volumes of wastewater mixed with fracking chemicals backflow to the surface of the well. In the US, a common disposal method for this waste has been to inject the backflow back into deep underground disposal wells.

These deep wells are designed to prevent the water from escaping and contaminating drinking water aquifers, surface water, and ecosystems. However, an inspection of Ohio fracking operations found “at least sixty-three cases in which improper construction or maintenance of wastewater impoundments led to contamination of nearby soil and water (Fracking). In addition, when wastewater in injected into underground wells, it can further destabilize rock layers and potentially induce earthquakes. For instance, “In Oklahoma, the rapid increase of fracking operations since 2008 has contributed to seismic activity forty times greater than previous years (Fracking). Further, fracking has possibly triggered dozens of small earthquakes in some other states as well. During the fracking boom the EPA received thousands of complaints about water from families that live near drilling locations, “private wells appearing yellow or brown, having a foul smell, clogging drains with sand and muck, or even igniting when exposed to flame (Fracking).

Those families who use contaminated water for consuming and bathing reported health complaints such as “stomach aches, rashes, dizzy spells, and difficulty breathing (The fight over fracking). In another example of fracking issues, a 2014 a study found that “children in Colorado who lived within ten miles of a gas well during their prenatal development faced a 30 percent higher risk of congenital heart disease, and twice the risk of neural tube defects, as children who were not exposed to gas extraction emissions (Fracking). Overtime, more and more of similar health problem had been reported. Another example of health problem resulting from fracking is the Headley family in Pennsylvania. In 2005 they bought a 115-acre ranch with a creek that ran through the property. Though they owned the property, they didn’t realize that the previous owner had leased the oil and gas property rights to gas companies before they move in. Those rights allow the companies to legally extract the oil and gas from their property at any time. Fracking by those companies lead to health issues including stomach aches, rashes, dizzy spells, and difficulty breathing. Several of their neighbors had similar experiences and it is believed that the chemicals used for fracking had leaked into the water supply, contaminating the creek and nearby water wells (The fight over fracking).

The expansion of fracking has played a major role in the US. It helped the US produce more oil domestically and less dependent on foreign oil. This avoided us from global disputes and spikes in prices. The fossil fuel experts insist that “fracking is safe, and that the oil and gas industry follow guidelines to prevent water contamination (The fight over fracking). Fracking also help the US transition away from coal which is considered as a “dirty fossil fuel, as compared to natural gas that comes from fracking (The fight over Fracking), and it is what scientists believe is a major contributor to climate change. Fracking provided jobs and has bought money to the poor parts of the US. Many places have benefited from fracking, and with thousands of workers, new restaurants, big grocery stores, and hotels have been built to accommodate the new workforce. However, the boast of “new jobs created by fracking only last through the construction phases of development. Fracking might seem to have many good benefits for the US however, with the risks that come with it, many people don’t think it is worth it. Fracking should be studied more to find ways to limit the risks and possible harm. Fracking should probably have more oversite and regulations to ensure that it is done without harming the environment. “The gas isn’t going anywhere, so what’s the rush? If we do it, we should do it right (Chemicals Involved in Fracking Are a Public Health Risk). Without due care, fracking might cause more harm in both the short and long term than any immediate benefit received.

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