Fracking – are we nuts?

Fracking releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when it is extracted, when it is shipped to where it will be used, and when it is burned. Global warming is real and we are running out of time to keep it under control. Virtually all climate scientists agree that climate change is upon us and is caused by man’s own actions. The only exceptions in the scientific community are the very, very few “scientists” who are paid for their thoughts by the fossil fuel industry, guided by firms who specialize in creating doubt. This industry is following the same script used by the tobacco and leaded gasoline to cloud the issue and keep the public from realizing how serious this problem is. To keep people from understanding the truth, raise doubt.

Glaciers are melting; storms are intensifying; sea Levels are rising (exacerbated in Virginia by sinking shorelines); air temperatures are steadily increasing worldwide; and water is becoming scarcer and more polluted.

So what does fracking do?

  • Pollution: Fracking is exempt from both the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, thanks to the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” so there is no accountability for poisoning the land, water, or air.
  • Water: Fracking changes millions and millions of gallons of “clean” water into unusable, highly polluted and toxic water. Clean water is mixed with “proprietary” toxic chemicals and injected through wells deep into the ground to break up the shale and release the trapped gas. The waste water from that process is no longer usable so it has to be disposed of, either by injecting it back underground or dumping it into open pits, exposed to the elements. A third solution, pump it into storage tanks and ship it to be cleaned, is considered too costly by the industry. In truth, there are virtually no waste water treatment plants that can clean the water and make it safe for release back into the environment. So what are the problems with that?
    • Aquifers: There are many examples of aquifers being polluted by fracking, but it is difficult to prove, because those water sources are rarely tested prior to fracking beginning, so there is no baseline to compare to.
    • Injection wells have been linked to increased number and severity of earthquakes.
    • The amount of clean water turned into unusable, toxic water varies at each well site, but an most use upwards of 7M gallons per well.
    • The exact make-up of the chemicals used in the process are not identified. Industry calls them “proprietary”, and so does not have to disclose them. An industry website, FracFocus, lists some of the chemicals used, but not all.
  • Air:
    • CO2 has exceeded 400 parts per million in the atmosphere so the atmosphere will heat up; the more methane and CO2 in the atmosphere, the warmer it will get. This is a scientific fact, and the good thing about science is that it is true regardless of whether you believe it or not.
    • CO2 is created in the burning process, and escapes into the air during extraction and delivery.
    • Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 (more than 80 times worse), and way too much escapes during extraction, transportation, and burning. Recent studies have shown that methane leaks from well sites are far worse than originally estimates. There is a current leak in Aliso Canyon, CA that has been leaking massive amounts of methane gas, on a Deepwater Horizon scale, since October 23, 2015 that the owner, SoCal Gas estimates cannot be plugged until the Spring 2016.
    • If you want to see how many really, really bad gas leaks are occurring, follow this link:
    • Testing for Contaminants: If open pits are used to store wastewater, you should know that the air above the open pits is not tested for contaminants, so there is no way to know what is floating up from them. But there are studies that show how the health of people who live near them is being deleteriously affected.
    • Open pits mean mosquitoes and other varmints. Or, pesticides can be added to the water to try and control them.
    • Odors from the pits are blown with the winds.
    • One of the by-products of the process of breaking up shale, is the release of radon. Radioactive waste materials brought to the surface release radioactivity into the air during the process, and afterwards, when the radioactive materials must be disposed of.
  • Land:
    • Breaking up shale brings radioactive materials, heavy metals, and other toxic materials to the surface, all of which require safe disposal. They are better off where they are.
    • Most Regulations require that the well operators have bonds that cover returning the land to pre-drilling conditions. But most bonds are nominal in value, and well operators save money by simply allowing the bond to default rather than pay the true cost of returning the land to its original condition. Same when a disaster occurs – the bonds do not cover the costs of fixing a disaster. And even when the Government takes the culprit to court, judgements against the industry are gentle hand slaps – take the $2.5M fine received by Duke Energy for ash spills that have an estimated clean-up cost of $250M.
    • Disaster/Performance Bonds are inadequate to handle a crisis, and most State Penalties are inadequate. There are virtually no conflict of interest prohibitions against government employees leaving regulatory agencies and going to work for the very industry they regulate and no prohibitions for former industry personnel to work for agencies regulating their industry.
  • Fracking-caused problems for the local community:
    • Heavy trucks roll continuously over roads not built to handle the weight and no provisions are made to reimburse localities for the destruction they cause.
    • Pipelines are proposed to move gas across private property and through environmentally sensitive lands.
    • Trains are used to carry gas from extraction to the end-user site, through highly populated cities and towns, sometimes with explosive results.
    • Spills are inevitable, and the questions is “will they” but rather “when will they?”
    • Noise can be deafening from stations, truck traffic, and 24×7 operation of the wells.
    • Non-functioning and non-producing wells must be shut down, but most operators leave before that is done.
    • There is inadequate monitoring by VA DEQ, and none by EPA, because of a lack of resources for the former and legislation prohibition for the latter.
    • Believe it or not, some jurisdictions allow fracking wastewater to be used in farming, even organic farming. Eat hearty!
  • Health Issues: There are so many health issues associated with fracking, you should just read on.

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