Climate Change

Fracking in the USA by Patrick Vinson

Hydraulic Fracking has rapidly become a popular source for getting oil in America. The term ‘fracking’ has become well known around smaller towns, but why?  Some would say it is because of luck, while others say the lack of regulations in these areas has caused a boom in the fracking industry. We have witnessed a plague of earthquakes erupt around these fracking centers that are popping up around the country. Fracking is the process of shooting a pressurized water/sand mixture to bust through rocks and reach the oil. This process leads to contaminated well water, dirtier air quality, and many more environmental problems.
Something has been happening around many of these fracking sites; they’re now being referred to as frack-quakes. Many states have seen an increase in seismic activity. Kansas, Oklahoma, for example, has seen a large leap in the number of small quakes in the state. The U.S. Geological Survey showed that within 5 years there were 2,547 small quakes in total in the town.  Nearby Jonestown is located right next to a fracking site that pumps out 4 billion barrels of wastewater per month!  These same scientists also discovered that seismic activity from the Jones area accounted for 20% of the overall region. Fracking earthquakes have also been subject to criticism in other states such as Ohio, Texas, and Arkansas.

There are many arguments that come up when debating fracking and its environmental impact. When talking about the effects it has on our groundwater, the EPA has been wishy-washy on until a recent release.  States such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Texas have all had hundreds of complaints of contaminated drinking water.

“The AP found that Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012. The Pennsylvania complaints can include allegations of short-term diminished water flow, as well as pollution from stray gas or other substances. More than 100 cases of pollution were confirmed over the past five years.” According to USA Today

Three Pennsylvania families were awarded a $1.6 million settlement with the drilling company. Over the last 8-10 years, fracking has lead to a boom of natural gas seen across our nation. Doing so has slowed down a number of imports and saved companies money and landowners grew richer. With this industry comes the harm of the environment around it. We all know how the big oil companies work in the United States; we know congress has a nice deal with them as well.

When pumping water & minerals into the ground to pulverize the rock in the attempt of reaching these natural gasses, some water returns to the surface and leaks into the ground above. This water can contain high levels of metals, sodium and other drilling chemicals, which are hazardous to the environment. All of these chemicals unfortunately seep back into our ground water going through our aquifers.  Levels of benzene, a flammable liquid used in fuel, were 50 times above the allowable limit, in the case in Pavilion, Wyoming. The chemicals in this instance were contaminating the area around it from being dumped in unlined pits surrounded by cement barriers which did nothing.
“Using publicly available information and freedom of information requests, DiGiulio and Jackson have published a report in Environmental Science & Technology that examines what went wrong at Pavillion. The research finds that workers were drilling at very shallow depths, as little as 700 ft underground, placing the fracking operation uncomfortably close to the drinking water aquifer that supplies the wells used by Pavillion residents.” – The Guardian

This Wyoming incident was clearly due to poor safety and consideration of the environmental impact it would have in the area. The depths they were drilling was shallow and they knew the dangers. If they weren’t then they obviously need to do some reevaluations of their fracking sites. Thanks to loopholes, the oil, and gas industry aren’t required to disclose the chemicals they use, but research has found that many are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. How many of these CEO’s and workers behind this faulty work see jail time? None because in America corporations’ buy their way out of any wrongdoing. Communities with fracking have seen declines in property values, increases in crime, and losses in local tourism and agriculture. Pipelines, oil trains and other infrastructure to support fracking add to these harms.
But water isn’t the only resource fracking is damaging. Fracking also affects the air quality in the surrounding areas. That’s right, besides the wonderful commodities fracking brings such as water pollution. It also brings us the joy of air pollution. A number of emissions being put off by the trucks, generators, and flares are all adding to the pollution. There fumes & emissions have made parts of Wyoming seem like an inner city plagued with smog on a bad day.  There have been studies done in regards to the quality of air in Wyoming towns affected by fracking. The study below is by Compendium of the scientific evidence, the expert’s organizations Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York summarized some of the harms:
“Air pollution associated with fracking is a grave concern with a range of impacts. Researchers have documented dozens of air pollutants from drilling and fracking operations that pose serious health hazards. Areas with substantial drilling and fracking build-out show high levels of ground-level ozone (smog), striking declines in air quality, and, in several cases, increased rates of health problems with known links to air pollution. Air sampling surveys find high concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), especially carcinogenic benzene and formaldehyde, both at the wellhead and at distances that exceed legal setback distances from a wellhead to the residence. In some cases, VOC concentrations exceeded federal safety standards by several orders of magnitude. Evidence implicates the U.S. shale gas boom in the recent global spike in atmospheric methane. Drilling and fracking operations in North Dakota’s Bakken oil and gas field alone contribute two percent of global methane emissions and directly impact air quality across North America. Ethane is both a greenhouse gas and a precursor for ozone formation.”

You can find in another study done New York State, concluded from its health and environmental reviews, “The total operations associated with good drilling can be assigned to three “types” of potential sources of air emissions: 1) combustion from engines, compressors, line heaters, and flares; 2) short-term venting of gas constituents which are not flared; and 3) emissions from truck activities near the good pad… there are potentially significant adverse health impacts associated with increased levels of particulate matter, ozone, diesel exhaust, and volatile organic compounds.”
All of these gasses and emissions being added to our already warming atmosphere, with no indications of stopping anytime soon. These corporate polluters are getting more and more regulations cut to help them profit more. We must stand up against eminent domain abuse used by these fracking companies, and stand up and demand people over profit. With all of these pollutants in the air and water, this only leads to health problems for the surrounding communities. Another check left on the table of the people to pick up more medical bills.
Many of the chemicals used in fracking are known to be cancer causing. When we improperly store these chemicals or waste after it comes back on the surface, we risk it seeping back into our groundwater. Physical sickness on top of all the negative effects it already takes on the environment around it. Towns being impacted by fracking have seen health issues such as rashes, respiratory problems, spikes in infant deaths and more. Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York summarized some of the harms:
“By several measures, evidence for fracking-related health problems is emerging across the United States. In Pennsylvania, as the number of gas wells increases in a community, so do rates of hospitalization. Drilling and fracking operations are correlated with elevated motor vehicle fatalities (Texas), asthma (Pennsylvania), self-reported skin and respiratory problems (southwestern Pennsylvania), ambulance runs and emergency room visits (North Dakota), infant deaths (Utah), birth defects (Colorado), high risk pregnancies (Pennsylvania), premature birth (Pennsylvania), and low birth weight (multiple states). Benzene levels in the ambient air surrounding drilling and fracking operations are sufficient to elevate risks for future cancers in both workers and nearby residents, according to studies. Animal studies show that two dozen chemicals commonly used in fracking operations are endocrine disruptors that can variously disrupt organ systems, lower sperm counts, and cause reproductive harm at levels to which people can be realistically exposed.”
Benzene is a widely used chemical in the United States, from drugs to detergents, rubbers, dyes and even pesticides. It is also an additive used in gasoline but has been reduced in recent years. Being exposed to high levels of Benzene have been linked to people getting cancer, and respiratory problems.

“Rates of leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia (AML), have been found to be higher in studies of workers exposed to high levels of benzene, such as those in the chemical, shoemaking, and oil refining industries.
Some studies have also suggested links to childhood leukemia (particularly AML) as well as acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and other blood-related cancers (such as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma) in adults. However, the evidence is not as strong for these cancers.
There is much less evidence linking benzene to any other type of cancer” – American Cancer Society
These chemicals are being allowed to seep back into our group water and these emissions are spreading disease through the local communities. The highest possible exposure has been linked to the workplace, meaning we also should worry about protecting workers health rights. Common workplaces that these are found are in rubber factories, chemical plants, gasoline industry and even shoe manufacturing plants. All of these are places where workers can come in contact with high level of Benzene.
Finally are the impacts that fracking has on the climate. As we all know, the oceans have been rising, glaciers have been melting and we are seeing record-breaking temperatures around the globe. Methane is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gasses and the warming of our planet. Methane is 86 times as toxic as Carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and grows more toxic over time. Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York summarized the threat to the climate system:
“Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. An increasing number of studies reveal high levels of methane leaks from gas drilling, fracking, storage, and transportation, undermining the notion that natural gas is a climate solution or a transition fuel…Multiple lines of evidence point to the central role of unconventional oil and gas extraction as the driver of recent increases in global greenhouse gasses, especially methane. These include the atmospheric pattern of increased methane concentrations directly over intensively fracked areas of the United States; sharp upticks in global methane and co-occurring methane levels that correspond to the onset of the U.S. fracking boom; and documentation of catastrophic amounts of methane released from storage facilities and other “super-emitting” sites…Drilling, fracking and expanded use of natural gas threaten not only to exacerbate climate change but also to stifle investments in, and expansion of, renewable energy.” – Frack Action

The data doesn’t lie, thanks to the boom of the fracking industry in the last decade. We have seen a sharp increase in the levels of Methane released into our atmosphere. With very little regulations on fracking in these towns, the pollution continues to plague the environment around it. Making our planet heat up and the citizens of the world sick. Why haven’t our governments stepped up against these big oil companies yet? Besides for the fact that they are lobbying for these politicians that will help with their end goal: profit over people.  The ocean temperatures are rising, and the emissions being put off by these fracking sites aren’t slowing it down. We must come together to combat big oil for the future generations of this planet.  The examples we used are only a few states affected by fracking daily. There were over one-thousand fracking incidents last year. That doesn’t include those who have become ill from the pollution fracking brings. For more information on fracking, please check out the videos I have posted links to below.

Fracking Explained: Opportunity or Danger

Fracking Hell: The Untold Story



Categories: Climate Change, News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s