Fracking Our Way into Oblivion, One Ecological Disaster at a Time – II
As we discussed last time, fracking (hydraulic fracturing) is the business of creating fractures in shale formations by drilling first vertically, then horizontally into the earth and then injecting a high-pressure mixture of chemicals, sand and water into the well to create fissures in the rock formation, allowing the natural gas trapped inside to be released into the wellbore, where it can then be extracted and processed. Championed by many as a “transitional solution” to our nation’s energy dilemma that pits traditional fossil fuel usage against ever-increasing evidence of global warming and the urgency to devote resources to the development of sustainable energy sources, natural gas is anything but a “bridge fuel.” Studies have shown that the fracking process causes as much harm to the environment as does burning coal, and that’s certainly not all. At least nine states have reported the fracking-related contamination of surface, ground and drinking water, and in Pennsylvania alone, over 1400 environmental violations have been attributed to fracking wells. Furthermore, pollution and chemical contamination with resultant ecological damage and destruction are routinely found in areas where fracking has occurred.
Witness a July, 2014 occurrence in Clarington, a rural community in southeastern Ohio where a fire erupted at a fracking site owned by energy giant Halliburton. The flames caused numerous tanker trucks containing chemicals and fracking wastewater to explode, spilling thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into a tributary of Opossum Creek, which flows into the Ohio River and supplies drinking water for millions of residents. Upwards of 70,000 fish died in a massive resultant fish kill, and the fire took a week to extinguish. Astoundingly, it also took a full five days for the EPA to obtain a list of exactly which chemicals had been spilled into this drinking water source! Why? Because the fracking companies have managed to secure legislation that protects their trade secrets, including the poisons they pump into the ground to get at the natural gas.
As explained in a MotherJones.com piece, “Halliburton was under no obligation to reveal the full roster of chemicals. Under a 2012 Ohio law … gas drillers are legally required to reveal some of the chemicals they use, but only 60 days after a fracking job is finished. And they don’t have to disclose proprietary ingredients, except in emergencies.” Can you believe it? According to the EPA, this particular debacle spilled more than 25,000 gallons of chemicals, diesel fuel and God-knows-what else, killing fish and other wildlife for miles along the river. Time was of the essence to contain the damage and protect the populace, yet Halliburton put its “trade secrets” ahead of all else and only divulged limited information to selected recipients who, presumably, could be trusted to keep their mouths shut. Meanwhile, local water authorities were kept completely in the dark, and the State of Ohio not long afterward declared that the water was safe to drink. Think Dick Cheney would drink it? More next time.