Photo: Jens Lambert/Shutterstock

What Is Fracking?

by Abbie Mood Jul 20, 2011
The first thing I heard about fracking was that France was banning it. Then I saw the “Talisman Terry” coloring book put out by Talisman Energy to tell the children how great it is.

That’s when I figured it was something that probably wasn’t that great.

Fracking (technically called hydraulic fracturing) is the process of extracting natural gas from the ground by injecting water, sand and/or 80-300 tons of radioactive chemicals into a pre-drilled well, which then fractures the shale and creates fissures that will allow the natural gas to be released. The problem is that people who live in the areas where fracking is taking place are getting sick and having problems with their water such as it being really dirty or people being able to actually set it on fire.

It could be from the natural gas contaminating the water (fracking occurs at 8,000 feet below the surface and drinking water aquifers sit at around 1,000 feet below the surface), but it’s likely from the chemicals or from improper disposal of waste materials.

The issue is that these natural gas companies aren’t required to disclose what chemicals they are using. In 2005, the Bush/Cheney Clean Energy Bill created a loophole (the Halliburton Loophole) that exempted natural gas companies from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which exempts the companies from disclosing what chemicals they are using. If they had to report on what they were using, they would likely be limited or not able to get a drilling/fracking permit in the first place.

Recently, state officials in New York released a draft environmental impact statement that could allow drilling and fracking within 1,000 feet of underground tunnels that supply New York City’s drinking water. The proposed drilling was put on hold three years ago so that investigation of the environmental impact could take place, and a previous impact statement mentioned the brittle rocks surrounding many of these underground tunnels, and drilling and fracking could put pressure on the tunnels that they weren’t designed to withstand.

In other words, the New York City water supply could become contaminated.

A filmmaker named Josh Fox was asked to lease his land so that a natural gas company could drill and frack. Instead he set out to determine if fracking was in fact safe, and he created a documentary called Gasland, which won’t be shown on HBO in 2012, but the DVD is on sale now.

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