Fracking Our Way into Oblivion …. Conclusion
This series has examined hydraulic fracturing or, as it is more commonly known, fracking, and some of the types of harm it is doing to the environment. We didn’t even touch on the threat of induced seismicity (increased earthquake activity) that seismologists have associated with the business of fracking; that will have to be a topic for another series. Specifically, we’ve focused here on the July, 2014 Halliburton fire and chemical spill in Clarington, Ohio, where a statutorily-created dearth of pertinent information regarding the nature of the chemicals involved hindered first responders and other emergency personnel in their efforts to contain the blaze and minimize the damage. We also learned that the Ohio “shield law” that allowed Halliburton to conceal the list of chemicals involved at the Clarington site until it was too late is quite a common one in fracking, where widespread exemptions to federal regulations, weak state laws and overarching industry-encouraged cluelessness on the part of local and regional officials as to what is actually taking place at these fracking sites is leading this country down a very dark path. In light of last summer’s environmental disaster, it is astonishing that Ohio happens to be one of the six states with the strongest current fracking regulations!
You might also find this hard to believe, but due to widespread exemptions from federal laws won by the gas and oil industry, along with the passive approach adopted by the federal government in overseeing the industry, there is no public information available that even lists all places in the United States where fracking is taking place. Weak federal oversight has relegated the bulk of fracking regulation to the individual states, and some states don’t even require energy companies to inform their own state regulators that they will be conducting fracking operations! There is little consistency among state fracking laws; some states charge their environmental regulatory agencies with overseeing fracking, while others regulate the practice solely through their state oil and gas commissions’ permitting procedures. This regulatory mishmash has prompted many experts to call upon the feds to enact national fracking laws. Considering the current gridlock in Congress, such legislation isn’t in the cards any time soon.
According to exhaustive research by the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the most powerful environmental groups in the country, as of January, 2013 fracking has occurred in at least 32 states since 2005. The only states where fracking activity was not confirmed are: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin. In New York, where I live and where some fracking has taken place since 2006, the practice has been halted under a de facto moratorium for the past seven years while the industry is “evaluated,” debate rages between fracking proponents and environmentalists, and Governor Andrew Cuomo refuses to take sides regarding a total fracking ban in New York, at least until after this November’s elections. Illinois, California and Michigan have proposals for tougher fracking regulations in the works, and Ohio may not be far behind. The problem is enormous and it’s truly time to enact the only sane solution: a complete ban on fracking in the United States of America.