Hydraulic Fracking: Take It or Leave It

Bureau of Land Management

Would you rather have a shortage of natural gas or a shortage of water? Who can live without water? Can you live without natural gas? We know we need natural gas, but oil fracking damages water sources and contaminates drinking water and air.

According to the American Oil and Gas Historical Society, hydraulic fracking was first used in the United States in 1949. But what is hydraulic fracking exactly? The word “hydraulic” means that something is operated by water and pressure. Fracking comes from the word “fracturing,” or the cracking the Earth’s surface. During the fracking process, a 10,000-foot pipe injects the Earth with water and chemicals. The process not only wastes water, it also contaminates it. Fracking requires about 720 Olympic swimming pools worth of chemicals, including carcinogenic, toxic, and radioactive substances such as lead, mercury, hydrochloric acids, and uranium. Where do they put that waste after this process? One disposal method is air pits.

Fracking has pros and cons. Some of the pros are: 1.) job production; 2.) greater energy independence; 3.) possible lower energy costs; 4.) contribution to the economy. Some of the cons are: 1.) high water usage; 2.) water contamination; 3.) potential damage to people; 4.) environmental hazards; 5.) air pollution; 6.) possible earthquakes.

So how do the oil companies get away with all the damage they cause? According to Earthworks, a nonprofit organization, oil companies are exempted from several laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, and the Toxic Release Inventory section of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986. Oil companies know that the process of hydraulic fracking is not in compliance with these laws. Not all of American citizens know that the oil companies have these exemptions, which keep them from liabilities that come from environmental damages. If they made millions and billions of dollars, it is not impossible that they can buy U.S. laws.

If the oil companies don’t want to fix the water contamination problem, at least do not contribute to it. We are not against hydraulic fracking. We are against the process of hydraulic fracking which damages water sources. Is there any other way to do it without damaging the water resources and without those harmful chemicals?

In 1950s Montana, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, oil wells were drilled and the damage remains north of the community of Poplar. Known as the East Poplar Oil Field, the once productive area has had massive groundwater contamination since the 1970s. It is environmentally unsafe, and it affects 40 miles of land surrounding the pit. The exact range of contamination is unknown, due to the fact that the many other oil companies that arrived also left wastewater behind.

The new oil and gas producers are attempting to find alternative waste water uses, due to the high cost of disposal and storage. The high salt content makes it marketable as a deicer for winter roads, causing yet another environmental concern, since runoff can find its way into the drinking water supply and damage the ecosystem. The General Electric Company offered $10 million to help explore waterless fracking through 2020. All activity concerning hydraulic fracking should be monitored due to the inherent risks to the communities’ water supplies, and the risk of contamination it poses to the environment. The public has the right to know what is going on, and who the oil and gas companies are, as well as their current activities within the reservation, community, or county.

People have differing opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of fracking. The fact is that not everyone is benefiting from gas, but every living thing needs water. So what do we need to do?

Water is essential for life. But we do not need the contamination to our drinking water and the chemicals that put our health at risk. Both citizens and oil companies need to prioritize renewable resources and efficiency to produce fossil fuels in the next decade. Renewable resources can be developed, as it is an option chosen by many other countries.

We recommend that our readers become involved with their health safety and learn about fracking and its risks—research ways to counteract fracking damages and ways to use green energy solutions. We believe “green” is the future in energy solutions since they are safer and cause less environmental damage to the Earth and people.

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