In Pennsylvania, we’ve always been focused on natural gases/minerals as a good portion of our wealth. Without it, our state economy gets significantly worse, as shown in both the loss of jobs recently in the mining sector (and entire towns built for that purpose have been abandoned in our state). However, in recent times, things have changed for the better for us. Not only have we found massive amounts of oil we previosly didn’t know we had, but we also have introduced a new method of collecting oil-fracking.
For those of you who may not be familiar with what fracking is, fracking is the drilling into rock, causing oil or natural gases to come up that were trapped in there. If you want more information on fracking, you can look on fracking’s main website. We know that fracking has helped make the US a much larger producer of oil in recent years, causing gas prices to fall significantly and the economy and jobs to rise. However, I wonder if there is some bad in fracking that could affect the environment and our well-being as a result, perhaps something the fracking companies and government don’t want us to know.
There are many articles on how fracking can cause explosions. The first is from Mexico, where 36 oil tanks caught fire, while another in West Virginia left 5 people injured. These are major situations, but both are rareities in the fracking industry, and likewise both had no known causes of ignition. Therefore, both can be caused to freak accidents, and not on the fracking process as a whole (due to chance). However, it can be said that we should look into if this process, which releases gases at a fast rate from rocks and the ground, can be an ignition source and cause explosions and be dangerous for those who work in that industry.
There is something involving fracking that is far more alarming, however. According to this study done by the ehp (environmental healh perspectives), a high amount of methane was found in water near some fracking sites. You could say that this is an isolated incident, or that the methane may not have a direct correlation to the fracking, but the results may shock you. In northern PA and NY, a study of 68 drinking water wells found that all had high levels of methane, so much so that they fell within the “take action” limit, and well above the maximum. This is both a staggering amount of wells contaminated, and all of them being over the maximum of methane is a scary thought.
Not only that, but these high levels of methane in our drinking water can too lead to an explosion, destroying homes in the process. This is a very bad thing for people near fracking, and needs to be addressed. Going back to my previous question, is this due to fracking, or maybe just due to poor plumbing/pipes? Or maybe another third party variable? The former head of the EPA for PA John Hanger says it’s the fault of the well construction, but is he just saying this because of how much money fracking makes for PA?
Thankfully, these leaks aren’t very likely, with only 2% estimated to be contaminated. Therefore, you can judge the risks according to other things in our lives. This is far more likely to occur than dying in a car crash, but the water being contaminated may not make you sick. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide if 2% is too much. Obviously either way, more meta-analysis on the topic is needed, as are stricter requirements for fracking. Thankfully, stricter measures were passed into law over 5 years ago. Are these measures enough? Only time will tell, but hopefully we can figure out a safe way to frack, without contaminating water or hurting people in the process. If we can’t, we may have to give up on fracking entirely and focus on renewable energy for the future faster than we may like.