Frac Your Heath and Our World: The Truth About Hydraulic Fracturing

Public domain This image is a work of a United States Department of Energy (or predecessor organization) employee, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public
Public domain This image is a work of a United States Department of Energy (or predecessor organization) employee, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public

Domestic natural gas...is it really safe and clean?

I'm all for finding domestic sources of energy. Natural Gas is abundant in the United States, and the practice of tapping into this so-called cheap, clean energy source has boomed in the last decade. Natural gas is extracted from huge formations of shale (clastic sedimentary rock) that is found underground throughout the country using a process called Hydraulic Fracturing. Energy giants such as Halliburton and BJ Services that are leasing property to build the wells that are used for Hydraulic Fracturing would like you to believe that this process of extracting Natural Gas is safe and is not harmful to the environment. And homeowners are even forming and joining coalitions, such as the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, Inc., excited that the Gas Industry is moving into their hometown - there to boost the economy by providing new jobs and provide abundant and clean domestic energy.

But at what price does this all come? And is Natural Gas really a clean energy source? You should do your homework before you decide. I did mine, and I've been so disturbed by what's going on in our country and Canada that I've been able to think of little else since my research began. And the fact that Hydraulic Fracturing is likely to spread to Europe, Asia, Australia and even Africa just chills me to the bone.

Obviously I've had my head stuck in the sand for along time since Hydraulic Fracturing has been been around for quite awhile, has systematically been spreading across the country, and I'm just now concerned about it. How did I finally become aware of Hydraulic Fracturing? By watching a documentary called Gasland, by Josh Fox. He received a letter from one of these gas companies, offering him nearly $100,000 to lease his land for drilling. He decided to look into Hydraulic Fracturing before signing the dotted line. He wound up making a documentary put out by HBO in hopes that people across the country will finally be aware of what's been going on in so many states now.

Watch an interview with him:

Hydraulic Fracturing

Natural Gas is trapped in Shale formations across the country. Hydraulic Fracturing is the method that is used to crack (fracture) the shale and free the natural gas from the shale. I'll give you a short explanation of the process in very layman's terms:

A construction site is built on the land, often leased from homeowners. When you lease your land, if the site is close enough, you will see, hear, and smell what's going on from your home. A well is dug straight down below the water table and then horizontally through the shale. Special concrete that can withstand chemicals and the force of water running through the center of it will be poured down the hole. Thousands of gallons of water and thousands of gallons of chemicals will be forced down the hole through the center of the concrete. When the pressure exceeds the strength of the shale, the fluids open or enlarge fractures (cracks) that can extend several hundred feet away from the well. Thus the name Hydraulic Fracturing. Then more chemicals are poured down the well to keep these fractures open.

This process may be repeated several times to maximize the ability to free the natural gas from the shale. Experts monitor the entire process on computer screens (pressure, fluids, etc.). Once the fracturing stage is complete, the water pressure is reduced and much of (not all) the water returns to the surface (flow back). There will either be many portable containers or a lined pit in the ground to store the flow back water for the time being. All of this flow back water used to be treated to remove the chemicals, diluted and put back into the environment. More recently, the practice of recycling this used water in another well is being tested. It has not yet been perfected.

The big gas corporations want us all to believe that Hydraulic Fracturing and Natural Gas is safe, clean, and the way of the future. I beg to differ.

Obviously, forcing millions of gallons of chemicals into the ground, and not getting it all back out of the ground is worrisome. You also have to trust that the specially made concrete that is poured down the well is fully cured before the water and chemicals are forced down there. You also have to trust that every piece of the drilling equipment is in sound working order, that no chemicals spill on the ground in any stage of the process, including while being trucked onto the well site. This isn't always the case. And blowouts can and have happened, resulting in soil and water contamination. The most recent incident that I could find was as recent as June 7, 2010. A blowout in Clearfield, PA led to natural gas and at least 35,000 gallons of drilling waste water flying up into the sky and over the ground for 16 hours.

Not good for the environment.

The soil and drinking water are being contaminated by gas wells that both leak and blowout. This affects families, pets, soil, crops, livestock, water, wells, streams, ponds, rivers, lakes, and eventually the ocean.

Not good for the environment. And do you know where the food you eat comes from?

Millions of gallons of fresh water are taken from local lakes, and rivers for use in Hydraulic Fracturing

Not good for the environment.

The water, and the chemicals put into the water before the water is forced down into the earth, have to be trucked into the drilling site.

Emissions from these trucks aren't good for environment.

The lined pit or portable tanks that are trucked in used to hold the flow back are the only things that prevents the flammable flow back from contaminating our soil, wells, rivers, streams, and eventually the oceans.

Not all of the flow back water is recycled. So what happens to this flow back water? Good question. The gas companies are not prepared to handle the millions of gallons of flow back. Often times this water that is full of chemicals is brought to local waste water treatment facilities.

Not good for the environment.

From EPA website: "Wastes generated during the exploration, development, and production of crude oil, natural gas, and geothermal energy are categorized by EPA as "special wastes" and are exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)."

Not good for the environment.

The condensate tanks which remain on the drilling site for the entire life of the well emit gasses 24 hours a day. These gasses can only be seen with thermal imaging and are constantly polluting the air that we all breathe.

Not good for the environment.

Fire from older gas pipeline that blew out. (Turn your volume down!)

But the EPA and Safe Drinking Water Act must cover Hydraulic Fracturing, and we must have access to exactly what chemicals are in being forced down these wells.

No, actually. That's not right. In 2005 during the Bush administration (Dick Cheney was chairman and CEO of the energy giant Halliburton from 1995 - 2000) amended the Safe Water Drinking Act. As long as diesel is not used in the process, Hydraulic Fracturing is excluded from the Act. So even though millions of gallons of chemicals have been forced into our earth all across the country, the EPA is only involved in Hydraulic Fracturing if diesel is used or if there's a reportable incident of contamination. The disposal of flow back into surface waters of the United States is regulated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program.

So we know when diesel is being used, and it's monitored in these instances, right? Wrong again! According to the New York Times, in February of 2010, Halliburton ad BJ Services both admitted to using diesel during hydraulic fracturing, after telling Congress that it would not be used when drilling near underground water supplies.

Gas Companies are EXEMPT from the...

It seems that having to follow the rules that everyone else does would simply be to costly for the Gas companies. Or at least it seems to be when it comes to the Clean Water Act and Stormwater Permit Coverage. If you don't agree to this reasoning, read a letter sent to the EPA from a representative of The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.

We don't even have access to the long list of chemicals that are being forced down into Our Earth (this would be covered under the Right to Know Act). It's a trade secret, and the Energy Giants are not required by law to tell us. Even if you've been exposed to these chemicals and are on death's bed in the ICU. No lie. There's a nurse that was treating a gas worker who was soaked in these chemicals and wound up fighting for her own life. And no one would tell her or the doctors what chemicals she was exposed to. Read the article in the Durango Herald.

Upper Deleware River declared 2010's most endangered river

Upper Deleware River was recently declared 2010's most endangered river because of Hydraulic Fracturing.

The drinking water for 17 million people in the North East, including New York City is in jeopardy!

What's it like to have gas wells in your neighborhood?

And do you really want them drilling for natural gas in your backyard? Watch the two part video below to see one woman explaining what it's like to have the natural gas companies invade her county. Not a pleasant way to live!

New Jobs and Land Leases, sure. CLEAN engergy? NO.

I can sympathize with the communities that have been so hard hit with today's economy. Really, I can. Been there, done that, still there. But there is no amount of money, and not enough propaganda from the Oil and Gas companies that could convince me to lease my land to these gas companies. They simply aren't regulated enough.

Back in June of 2009 Congress introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act which would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act. The act would repeal exemption from restrictions on underground injection of fluids near drinking water sources that the Oil and Gas industries have been granted, and it would require oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

The FRAC Act has yet to be passed. Again, the argument is all about money. If ever faced with the decision to lease my land to the gas companies or not to lease it, I would choose to learn from the Gulf Oil Spill disaster and think of the environment first.

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