RCC Opposes the Present Hydraulic Fracturing Practices
The Rachel Carson Council is troubled by environmental effects of the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process used in natural gas extraction and we oppose it in its present form. We call attention to reports by The New York Times (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/us/series/drilling_down/index.html) and the website ProPublica (http://www.propublica.org/series/buried-secrets-gas-drillings-environmental-threat). Both of these groups have been investigating the reports of pollution of drinking water by both the hydraulic fracturing process itself, and from the discharge of contaminated wastewater. Additionally, both these groups have been addressing regulatory concerns. Specifically, recent legislation has exempted the hydraulic fracturing process, and natural gas extraction from major portions of many major environmental laws; including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Superfund among others.
Hydraulic fracturing is a widely used process for extracting natural gas that is imbedded in shale rock. In the process, a mixture of water and chemicals is pumped into a well, and the water is used to break apart the rock formations and release the natural gas that is trapped in it.
Rachel Carson Council objects to this process and the present lack of regulatory involvement in it for several reasons:1) The waste water that is produced by this process is not sufficiently regulated the waste can be discharged into surface waters despite this water being known to contain chemicals that are known to be toxic.
2) There are several reports of drinking water wells being contaminated with natural gas and hydraulic fracturing chemicals after hydraulic fracturing had been conducted in their areas. It appears likely that the fracturing process is releasing natural gas from the shale which then seeps into household wells.
3) There appears to be no scientific basis for exempting natural gas extraction from the major environmental protection laws.
4) It appears that needed scientific studies are being blocked by political concerns.
The EPA is currently developing a study plan (http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/index.cfm ) to examine the environmental effects of the process. Importantly however, according to a New York Times report (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04gas.html ) the scope of the EPA’s study is being limited by political pressure. The NYT article cites several EPA scientists who argue that critical areas of research are being left out of the study plan that is being developed. Additionally, the NYT article reports that the EPA is also narrowing the scope of the study by limiting all research on hydraulic fracturing to only what is outlined in the national plan. This will likely halt some of the research currently being conducted by the EPA regional offices.
Rachel Carson Council has serious concerns about the adverse environmental and human health impacts of hydraulic fracturing as it now exists. We are opposed to this highly under-regulated process because the safety of the process and handling of the waste products have not been carefully considered.
RCC will continue to follow this topic and provide more updates soon.