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Check out the “Current News” page for recent news on hydrofracking. We are currently beginning to put news on that page, and it will be updated very frequently.
What is hydrofracking?
Hydrofracking is a fairly new economical and technological method, which enables natural gas producers to recover natural gas from dense shale formations. During the drilling process, the drill will bore deep down into the earth and then horizontally for approximately 8,ooo feet in each direction. The Hydrofracking process uses a relatively substantial more amount of water compared to that used in conventional drilling “about 6-8 million gallons more,” as well as a mixture of chemical additives that are pumped into the shale to fracture the rock and release the gas. Due to the “slick water” mixture, there is a highly increased possibility for toxicity and long-term effects as well as environmental effects. Many of the companies that employ this technique of extraction have refused in efforts to cooperate with the EPA to disclose what chemicals and amounts are used in this process after thousands of allegations that their method of drilling was contaminating their water.
Why do some think hydrofracking is necessary?
As previously mentioned, hydrofracking is a way to obtain natural gas from under layers of shale rock. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but is said to be a cleaner burning fossil fuel. It is more eco-friendly to burn natural gas, which is primarily methane, than it is to burn coal or oil. Natural gas can serve as an alternative to coal and oil in fueling our lives. Since it is a cleaner burning fuel, people think we should make a switch to it as soon as possible. In addition to it being a cleaner burning fuel, we can obtain natural gas domestically, rather than internationally, which would reduce dependence on foreign oil. Also, obtaining fuel locally will likely boost our economy. It will add another big industry to the United States Economy, much like the coal and oil industries. Also, people are needed to operate the drills and deliver the millions of gallons of chemicals, water, sand and other materials needed to frack, and do other jobs relating to the process of hydraulic fracturing. In other words, hydrofracking will create jobs, something this nation is in dire need of. Many people think that these pros of hydrofracking mean we need to frack and that we could benefit from it.
Why Is Hydrofracking Bad?
In order to drill for natural gas, drilling companies add chemicals to water and drill, using the method of hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking. The main concern with this is the fact that the drills can hit water sources and contaminate our water. 60-80% of the toxic water and fluids both used for and resulting from hydrofracking remains underground. Also gas companies claim the natural gas that is found from hydrofracking is a clean source of energy. This is only partially correct because while natural gas does burn more cleanly, the extraction process of hydrofracking releases a lot of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere and Methane is known to be amongst the leaders in greenhouse gasses. Between hitting water sources and releasing greenhouse gasses, the process of hydraulic fracturing can be and often is harmful to both our environment and health.
Why do the gas and drilling companies want to start now?
The gas companies most likely recognize that hydrofracking causes many problems, however they refuse to admit it. This situation is much like that of the tobacco industry when cigarettes were becoming popular; see the “Comparing Tobacco And Hydrofracking Situations” section for more information. The gas companies also seem to recognize that currently, the public doesn’t know much about hydrofracking, which to them means they need to get it, approved and started everywhere, now! The gas companies want to get the process going wherever they can, while they can. The public needs to see both the pros and the cons of hydraulic fracturing now. It seems that the gas companies hope that we will see the positive aspects and say that hydrofracking is good before we get a good look at the positive aspects. If the gas companies cared about us and our environment and health, they would wait for the proper studies to be conducted. Instead they are rushing to get as much hydrofracking as possible done as quickly as possible. They clearly don’t care about you, me, or anybody else, or the environment or a cleaner source of energy. The gas companies are greedy and selfish and they want money. It is clear that their number one concern is money, other wise they would be willing to wait for studies to be done by the EPA. The gas has been there for millions of years and it’s not going anywhere any time soon unless the gas companies take it, so why don’t they wait? The simple answer to that question is wealth.
Laws & Regulations
There are a number of laws and regulations that have to do with hydrofracking, but not enough to be sufficiently regulating it. Currently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is undergoing a two-year study on the effects of hydraulic fracturing so that educated decisions of regulations and whether or not to permit the drilling can be made. The EPA however has taken out or paid less attention to their study, per request of several people. President Obama, in fact, is one of these people; he requested that they not study certain parts of the original plan. There is currently an Executive Order Moratorium prohibiting Horizontal Natural Gas Drilling in effect in New York State. This is courtesy of former governor, David Patterson; and it expires this July! That means, that after this July, in about 3-4 months, both Vertical and Horizontal Natural Gas drilling (hydrofracking) will be permitted in New York State. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen! What can you do? Contact Governor Cuomo (see What Can You Do page) and tell him to extend the Moratorium.
The Clean Water Act is a federal law that “establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters” (EPA Website)1. It prohibits discharge of any pollutants into water without a permit. This means that with a permit, somebody can pollute our water. Also, the Halliburton Loophole was enacted by former Vice President Dick Chaney (also former executive of Halliburton, the inventor of hydrofracking, according to the New York Times). “It stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. Invented by Halliburton in the 1940s…” (NY Times Editorial)2. In other words, a law that would protect our water, our health, and our environment from hydrofracking does not, thanks to a Loophole created in 2005, during the Bush Administration.
More laws and regulatios exist, some of which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/regulations, as well as in many other places, but the study and laws mentioned above are some of the most important ones.
Quotes in this section are from:
1EPA Website: http://www.epa.gov/regulations/laws/cwa.html
2NY Times Editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/opinion/03tue3.html
Comparing Tobacco And Hydrofracking Situations
We found that the situations of the gas industry now are much like that of the gas and drilling industry today. One argument for tobacco is that, “heavy smokers generally don’t live long enough to develop the costly and chronic illnesses which affect the elderly, reducing society’s healthcare burden.” So they are saying that the healthcare problems will reduce thanks to a certain age of people smoking. This is similar to the argument for hydrofracking that says that the worry about people getting jobs reducing if we hydrofrack in New York. One argument against using tobacco is that it has health risks. Scientists have noticed the connection with smoking tobacco and getting lung cancer. They noticed that a large percentage of people that have gotten diagnosed with lung cancer also use to smoke tobacco. Likewise, those that drink the water that was contaminated as a result of hydrofracking have had some health issues. So the arguments for and against tobacco industry are comparable to that of the hydrofracking and natural gas industry.
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