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Hydraulic Fracturing

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Hydraulic Fracturing Hydraulic fracturing is a completion process that has been proven. It allows producers to recover natural gas and oil safely. This process reduces our national carbon dioxide, reduces our reliance on foreign fuel imports, and accelerates our transition to a carbon light environment. The development of natural gas and oil is critical to America’s energy needs and economic renewal. The process of hydraulic fracturing is using water pressure under tight controls to create fractures in rock that allow oil and natural gas to escape and flow up out of the ground. While in this process “fracturing fluids” are mixed in using high pressure. This creates fissures that allow resources to move freely from rock pores where they are trapped. (Chesapeake Energy)
First, the way hydraulic fracturing works is a production drill is drilled through the rock layers to intersect the coal seem that contains coal bed methane, CBN. Second, fractures are created or existing fractures are enlarged in the coal seem so that the CBM can be drawn from the well and pumped to the surface. These fractures are created or enlarged by using a thick water-based fluid which is gradually increased by rate and pressure. Third, over time the coal seam is unable to keep up with the fracturing fluid which results in high pressure causing the coal to fracture along the weaknesses within. Sand is pumped into these fractures to keep them ‘propped’ open after the pressures are released. After a period of fluid recovery or groundwater extraction is when the extraction of CBM occurs. As pumping continues, the pressure eventually decreases so that the methane desorbs from the coal, flows and is extracted through the production well. The fracture created acts as a conduit in the rock or coal formation, allowing the CBM to flow more freely from the coal seems through the fracture system and to the production where gas is pumped to the surface. Unlike conventional gas production, the amount of water extracted declines proportionally with increasing CBM production (US EPA, 2004).
According to IPAA fracking, is continually improving, thanks to technology, engineering, and State and Federal regulations, to reduce the environmental impact and water pollution. The Independent Petroleum Association of American produced an article in April 2008 stating, “Technology such as hydraulic fracturing has made it possible for many Economic Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing communities to see economic gains due to production of oil and gas. For example, the Barnett shale play in the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, area has brought literally thousands of jobs into the area.” (IPAA, 2008) Many property owners will witness economic growth and receive payments. Increase tax revenues to the government and job growth for the demand of the following professions, manufacturing and environmental permitting, engineering and surveying, construction, waste management, and more. The job growth is not only local, but continues on a state and federal level that provides supervision, studies, and regulations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC). More and more consumers draw their power from fracking because of their lower prices on the fossil fuel, “The Yale Graduates Energy Study Group calculated that in 2010 alone, the consumer surplus from shale gas production was worth over $100 billion.” (Loris, 2012) It is proven that Hydraulic fracturing is a significant part of U.S.’s energy portfolio and thus a critical part in economic growth.
Hydraulic fracturing may have its advantages, but it can have its disadvantages as well. One problem is that fracking can contaminate local water supplies, including lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and ground water. The documentary Gasland stirred up interest in the American population to the effects of fracking. After being offered one hundred thousand dollars for his land from a gas company, the director Josh Fox traveled around America investigating the effects of fracking on the local rural populace. Josh Fox did an excellent job at exposing the gas industry for what it really is. The film won an Oscar nomination and has been praised by environmentalists nation-wide.
Another disadvantage is it has environmentally damaging effects. Hydraulic fracturing has been known to cause earthquakes. “Reports of minor tremors of no greater than 2.8 on the Richter scale were reported on June 2, 2009 in Cleburne, Texas, the first in the town's 140-year history” (Fox). On the other side of the argument, they claim “Given the ubiquity of fracking without seismic impact, the risks would seem to be remote” (“The Facts About Fracking”). This is irrelevant considering that earthquakes are happening where they otherwise would not have occurred. In addition to earthquakes, they also damage the environment by causing environmentally damaging oil spills. In the past two years alone, a series of surface spills, including two blowouts at wells operated by Chesapeake Energy and EOG Resources and a spill of 8000 gallons of fracking fluid at a site in Dimock, Pa., have contaminated groundwater in the Marcellus Shale region. The amount of water required to drill all 2916 of the Marcellus wells permitted in Pennsylvania in the first 11 months of 2010 would equal the amount of drinking water used by just one city, Pittsburgh, during the same period, says environmental engineering professor Jeanne VanBriesen (qtd. in McGraw). Spills like these cause water contamination for the locals. In this case, a large portion of the spilled fracking fluid flowed into a nearby stream (McGraw). The level of contamination is still being investigated. These irresponsible and selfish practices must be regulated before irreversible collateral and environmental damage occurs. Gas companies have even been able to exploit certain loopholes in the law. An employee from the Environmental Protection Agency stated that the fracking industry enjoy certain legal exemptions from the Clean Water Act – courtesy of Dick Cheney (qtd. in Fox). The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained a provision that has come to be known as the "Halliburton Loophole," an exemption for gas drilling and extraction from requirements in the underground injection control (UIC) program of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Other exemptions are also present in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act (Fox). It is reported that “Last year the EPA found that some chemicals known to be used in fracturing were among the contaminants detected in 11 residential drinking water wells…” (Lustgarten). These chemicals have even been known to be carcinogenic (Lustgarten). Contaminated groundwater becomes a problem for locals when their cattle have to drink the contaminated water. There are even cases of sick animals where all their hair falls out (Fox). Many farmers worry about the welfare of their cattle’s health which is sometimes their only source of income (Fox). Landowners in shale gas drilling areas have reported foul smells in tap water, and toxic chemicals, such as benzene, have been detected in water from wells near drilling sites (Fox). In addition, there are cases of air pollution from the machinery from the drill sites (Fox). Many claim that the air pollution is the cause of a lot of cancer in the locals (Fox). In Dish, Texas, Mayor Calvin Tillman claimed that the fracking industry created carcinogenic pollution in his town (“The Facts About Fracking”). He then quit his job and left his hometown to protect his sons from this pollution (“The Facts About Fracking”). These unsafe practices can be very harmful to the local rural populace, and must be regulated.
Current legislation shows a lot of activity with states trying to pass laws that would require full disclosure on what chemicals are being used by fracking companies for their process. The process is said to be extremely proprietary, and each company has different chemicals and amounts used in their particular process. Companies say the levels and mixtures of these chemicals cannot be released because the information would lead to other rival companies using their technology for their own financial gain. This however, has not stopped local and federal lawmakers from introducing legislation that would make public all of the items used in the fracking process including proprietary chemicals used in frac water. The following is a list of legislation brought forward by lawmakers, or laws passed by various states in 2011 (Pless, 2011).
• In 2010 Wyoming became the first state to require companies participating in hydraulic fracturing to disclose all of the chemicals used in the process.
• Michigan took their law one step further and not only required the entire chemical to be submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality, but also the amounts used as well.
• California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania all have bills on the floor that would make it mandatory to publicly disclose all chemicals used in the process.
• Indiana tried to pass House Bill 1049 which would have required only disclosing constituents. Only in the event of a medical emergency would the fracking company have to disclose proprietary formulas used in their process.
• Pennsylvania House Bill 230 would stop any fracking that is within 2,500 feet of a water well, lake, reservoir, spring, impoundment, or the permitted intake of a stream that serves as a primary source for a community water system. North Carolina recently passed senate bill 820 which legalized fracking throughout the state. The vote for the most part followed Democratic and Republican Party lines although there was a small error by one voter. Becky Carney who is a Democrat, and has been opposed to Senate Bill 820, accidentally voted yes for the bill. She claims it was a mistake and apologized for her error. This did not stop people wondering; was this a mistake, or calculated (Siverstein, 2012)? Either way, it shows how divisive the fracking debate can become for all politicians. Politics and energy have gone hand in hand since this country was founded. With new energy sources also comes new regulation and the battle to control it. Republicans see financial opportunity and a natural resource on our own soil we should take advantage of to cut down our foreign dependence on oil. Democrats see the potential for pollution to our drinking water and the destroying of our earth for the personal gain of big business. Regardless of the politics associated with fracking, one constant remains and should not be forgotten by politicians or the public. In order for us to survive as a society we must put what is right, before what is profitable. Recently, in many EU countries, shale gas extraction became a very hot topic as mining companies are searching for new locations to apply hydraulic fracturing to obtain gas from the ground. In some countries these activities have been prohibited by national authorities (France, Bulgaria), but in some others, mining companies are receiving permits to continue with prospecting and even commercial mining. In these countries, reaction from local environmental activists and NGOs is matching that from member parties of the European Green Party. Therefore a reaction and set of recommendations for coordinated EGP activities are urgently needed; to support measures on the EU, national, regional and local levels. (European Green Party) Personally, I believe that there are many procedures undertaken to try and prevent any contamination or horrific events from taking place. Sadly, there is very little that can be done if something does happen and the people involved have had their lives destroyed and taken over by these companies. It is truly horrifying to know that there is a potential answer to the United States' energy problems right in front of us, but at what cost to those who are giving their land up in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Works Cited
Chesapeake Energy. (n.d.). Hydraulic Fracturing Facts. Retrieved January 2013, from Hydraulic Fracturing: http://www.hydraulicfracturing.com/Pages/information.aspx
European Green Party. (n.d.). European Greens say NO to shale gas extraction (fracking) in Europe. Retrieved January 2013, from European Green Party: http://europeangreens.eu/content/european-greens-say-no-shale-gas-extraction-fracking-europe

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