Hydraulic fracturing has transformed the American landscape over the last decade, triggering booms in oil and natural gas production, making a few people wealthy – but also inflicting a terrible toll on many rural families and public health.
The debate over fracking has raged in places like Pennsylvania where the shale boom started almost a decade ago, as well as in neighboring Maryland, where drilling has not yet begun. Our friends at the Environmental Integrity Project teamed up with the International League of Conservation Photographers to tell the stories of six families who feel the impact of hydraulic fracturing every day and who are taking steps to protect or reclaim their health and community.
If the oil and gas industry is allowed to march south from Pennsylvania to Maryland, the effects could be devastating. Maryland’s businesses, water supply and quality of life could all suffer—which is why the state imposed a moratorium on fracking in 2015. But now, it’s set to expire in October 2017, and Governor Larry Hogan’s administration has proposed regulations that would allow hydraulic fracturing to start after that date. Several state lawmakers have vowed to introduce legislation to permanently ban fracking, following the example of New York in 2015. Local leaders have also taken steps to oppose fracking, passing municipal and county bans across the state. Our partners at Citizen Shale, who are featured in the photo project, are leading the grassroots opposition to fracking in western Maryland, where fracking companies hope to drill into the gas-rich Marcellus Shale.
(An active gas well in southwestern Pennsylvania)
Families from Pennsylvania are already facing the consequences of fracking in their area. Their quality of life and health have been disrupted by the proliferation of drilling rigs, tanks, pipelines, trucks, and petrochemical plants that have followed the fracking boom in the state over the last decade—and if Maryland doesn’t stand up to the industry now, Maryland residents could be facing these same problems soon.
The families featured in “The Human Cost of Energy Production” are fighting back against the encroachment of the powerful oil and gas industry on their lives. Pennsylvania farmers who for generations have lived in peaceful partnership with the landscape are having their quality of life shattered by loud drilling rigs and flares, tanker trucks at all hours of the night and air pollution. In another story, a mother whose child suffered chemical exposure works to educate and bring about change.
(Nadine Grabania at Deep Creek Cellars, the winery she and her husband Paul Roberts own and operate in Friendsville. Nadine and Paul also lead Citizen Shale, a grassroots group formed to fight fracking in Maryland.)
Food & Water Watch is working with the people organizing to protect their farms and families who refuse to give up or back down. Together, we’ve been fighting to ensure that concerned citizens and local governments have the power to determine the character of their communities. People, not industry, should decide the quality of their lives—and Food & Water Watch will be there with our partners to ban fracking and protect people’s water and health, in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and across the country.