In a move that will most likely both please and upset environmentalists, this past week the Obama administration proposed new legislation concerning hydraulic fracturing that requires companies drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands to disclose exactly what chemicals they are using in this highly controversial drilling process. However, I was greatly disappointed to learn that this regulation allows these companies to disclose this information only after they have completed drilling. This, to me greatly diminishes the true intent of this proposed law. This allowance seems a little like closing the barn doors only after the horses have escaped.
I am far from knowledgeable about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but I have seen several television programs and have read numerous articles the past several years that documented known cases of groundwater contamination due to fracking. I have seen interviews on television with landowners from Pennsylvania who talk of regretting their decision to sell the mineral rights to their property to the fracking industry because their groundwater became contaminated due to this very contentious and rapidly expanding type of drilling.
Several lawsuits have already been filed claiming groundwater contamination, dating back to at least 2009. The EPA announced a year or so ago that it would begin investigating claims of water contamination linked to fracking in Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Contamination of groundwater is just one of several potential natural disasters that could result from hydraulic fracturing. Disposal of the millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater as a byproduct of this type of drilling is another potential disaster just waiting to happen.
This past year, there were earthquakes in the Youngstown, Ohio region that were attributed to the dumping of fracking wastewater. Ohio is fast becoming the principal region to dump this highly toxic wastewater from the thousands of wells drilled in Pennsylvania. Granted, fracking could be a boom industry and help solve this nation’s energy dependence on Middle East oil, however, I believe we are moving entirely too fast in allowing the oil and gas industry carte blanche in the rush to drill for these precious minerals without the necessary studies to determine the full impact on our precious natural resources.
In addition to possible violations of both the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, possibly the absolute worse fact about this particular process of drilling for natural gas and oil is the use of millions of gallons of precious water to crack open the Utica and Marcellus shale. The next great war will not be fought over oil, but water. Great Lake states, Canada and the water industry are already fighting politically over water rights to the five Great Lakes, the world’s largest source of fresh water. In the rush to drill for these minerals, we are allowing for the possibility of a truly great natural disaster to occur. Did we not learn anything from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico?
Steven H. Spring