by Romain Coetmellec
How many people really know what fracking is? More people than ever have learned about it thanks to the 2020 U.S. presidential election — Google Trends shows searches for the term peaked during that season — but there are still not enough people who know what it is and what it’s doing to our planet and resources.
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high quantity of water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure — high enough to crack the rock — which allows the once-trapped oil & gas to flow to the surface out to the head of the drilling well.
Here’s one fact: the fossil fuel industry is lying to us!
Oil & gas corporations such as Exxon Mobil or Chevron have been lying to the public for decades. They knew then and now know just how dangerous fracking is.
They purposefully mislead the public into believing that natural gas — obtained through fracking — is greener than coal. In fact, they are trying to sell us that fracked gas is the “bridge fuel” towards more renewable energy — actually, the only thing fracking is a bridge to is climate chaos.
9 Reasons Why Fracking Is Evil
- Fracking accelerates climate change. Natural gas consists mostly of the potent greenhouse gas methane, which traps about 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks from oil and gas operations, including pipelines, are the number one source of human-caused methane pollution in the country. This means that the greenhouse gas footprint of fracked natural gas is actually worse than coal and oil because methane traps more heat in the atmosphere. Scientists warn that if our planet heats up 2° Celsius more, it could cause irreversibly destructive climate change. Fracked gas is no “bridge fuel” to renewables, it simply substitutes one dirty fuel (coal) for another (fracked gas), making climate change even more costly and destructive in the coming decades.
- Fracking pollutes drinking water. Across the country — from Wyoming to Texas to Pennsylvania — fracking has caused widespread pollution of drinking water. In the most dire cases, communities have had to truck water to their homes when well water became too polluted to drink. These pollutants include methane and toxic chemicals linked to fracking. In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed “widespread, systemic” impacts on drinking water from fracking.
- Fracking produces toxic — even radioactive — wastewater. Some of the chemical-laced water used to frack gas wells returns to the surface as wastewater. This wastewater contains not only the original fracking fluids, but also potentially dangerous levels of harmful underground contaminants and radioactive material. These chemicals can cause cancer, harm sensory organs and the respiratory system and damage the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.
- Fracking makes people sick and causes a host of public health problems. Dozens of scientific studies have confirmed the firsthand accounts of frontline communities: Fracking can make people sick. This is particularly true for people living close to drilling and fracking operations that are exposed to air pollution or water contamination. Fracking is associated with health problems including difficulty breathing, asthma, throat and nose irritation, skin problems, abdominal issues, headaches, nosebleeds, eye irritation, cancer and hair loss. Some women have had reproductive health problems since fracking is linked to infertility, miscarriages and birth defects. The shale gas workers are also plagued with health issues. Workers can be exposed to hazardous chemicals, radioactive toxins, extreme temperatures, airborne pollutants and respiratory irritants.
- Fracking is exempt from federal environmental laws allowing industry to conceal contents of chemical cocktails. One provision in the 2005 Energy Policy Act — which is giveaway-laden in favor of the energy industry — explicitly exempted fracking from key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act and allowed fracking companies to hide the chemical contents of their drilling fluid. This “Halliburton Loophole” has prevented federal oversight of the perilous, polluting and poisoning practice of fracking. Instead of the EPA, only state governments regulate fracking and most allow oil and gas companies to conceal the fracking chemicals as so-called “trade secrets.” The known and commonly used chemicals include 14 known or possible human carcinogens and many linked to developmental health and reproductive problems. But companies routinely refuse to disclose more than 10 percent of the chemicals pumped into wells.
- Fracking and the disposal of fracking wastewater cause earthquakes. Fracking-related tremors and earthquakes have occurred across North America. Both the process of fracking and the underground disposal of fracking wastewater are known to cause earthquakes (the ones large enough to feel are most commonly caused by re-injecting fracking wastewater for disposal deep underground). In Oklahoma, the sudden and violent increase in frackquakes have largely been triggered by the high-pressure, underground disposal of toxic fracking wastewater. From 1975 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged only one to three 3.0 magnitude (or greater) earthquakes annually. In 2009 the state had 20 of these 3.0 magnitude or greater earthquakes (the magnitude that is generally needed to be felt). In 2015, that number exploded 45-fold to 902.
- Fracking is driving a huge petrochemical and plastics boom. This may come as a surprise to some, but plastic can be made from fracked gas and the plastics industry is reaping under-the-radar benefits from fracking. The fracking boom created a gas glut that encouraged the petrochemical and plastics industries to expand and build new facilities to make more plastic — most of which will just end up as litter or in landfills. It’s a vicious cycle where more fracking drives more petrochemical production and more plastics manufacturing, and in turn encourages more fracking. These petrochemical and plastics plants emit massive amounts of air and climate pollutants and are expanding in the Gulf Coast and popping up in Appalachia. This plastic doesn’t decompose and has polluted rivers, landscapes, oceans and marine life and microplastic molecules end up in everything — sea salt, bottled water, organic compost and much more. On average, people are consuming about 5 grams of this residual plastic weekly — roughly the same as one credit card.
- Fracking is expanding pipeline infrastructure across the country. The oil and gas industry is expanding its sprawling maze of pipelines to transport fracked oil and gas to power plants, export facilities, petrochemical factories and more. The labyrinth of built and proposed pipelines lock in decades more dependence on fossil fuels, leak massive volumes of the greenhouse gas methane and damage the environment and ecosystems along their routes. The pipeline companies literally bulldoze over local opposition — including Native American tribes, local landowners, farmers and conservationists. Pipeline construction threatens wildlife habitats and the environment, compromises soil quality, causes erosion, creates dangerous sinkholes, releases air pollutants, and contaminates streams, rivers and aquifers. And once a pipeline is built, unlucky landowners along its path will have to accept living with the constant risk of accidents and explosions forever.
- Fracking imposes heavy social costs and quality of life burdens. In addition to the obvious environmental and public health impacts brought about by fracking, fracking also impacts the quality of life for rural communities where most wells are drilled. Energy booms create intense pressures on local communities. The flood of out-of-state workers burden small towns with limited capacities to meet the growing needs and new challenges, such as oversaturating local housing, police and public health capacities. The increased traffic on rural streets from fleets of trucks transporting fracking products to and from drilling sites can bring big city traffic jams to previously uncongested roads. There is also a heightened risk for traffic accidents, which can spill hazardous materials into nearby freshwater bodies, farmland and private property.
We Need Your Help To Urge Biden To Ban Fracking For Good
We know the only way toward a clean, renewable energy future is to ban fracking and stop all new fossil fuel development. We need to ban fracking everywhere, but the first step is saving our public lands from the free-for-all fracking permits that Trump ushered through. Will you sign the petition now to push President Biden to take swift, bold action to ban fracking on public lands?
Hearing from constituents helps elected leaders make their decisions. Your signature can help!