The Dangers of Fracking for Natural Gas

May 6, 2012

I’d like to post an email I received from a friend:

Hello All,

I am writing this letter to you because I am truly fearful for our country, my own children and their children. The only way that I can think of combating this fear is to try and let people know what we have been learning about this past month.

In the last few weeks, we have attended a few meetings concerning the
process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (fracking). The
information we obtained gave us some cause for worry, enough to write
our state legislators about our concerns. However, last night we
decided to watch the documentary recommended to us about fracking. It
is called “Gasland.”  I am sure many of you have heard about it and
maybe a few of you have actually watched it.  Until I saw this Oscar-nominated documentary, I
didn’t believe that water could burn.

We rented it through Netflix. My Husband actually didn’t want to watch it
since he thought it would be too depressing. It was more than that.
It scared us enough to wreck our night’s sleep. Seeing this movie was
so much more enlightening than reading information in articles and on
websites. I urge all of you to get your hands on it and watch it. In
our opinion, we are putting the entire country’s’ water supply and
consequently our food supply at risk. It has the real possibility of
becoming the worst nightmare our country has ever faced.

So far the states that have been most affected are Pennsylvania,
Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming and Louisiana. Thousands and
thousands of these wells have already been drilled. And all of this
has occurred in one mere decade. However there are plans in the works
to drill wells in at least 34 of the 50 states.

These gas companies are exempt from most of our laws concerning clean
water and clean air. The more than 500 hazardous (proprietary)
chemicals, many of them toxic organics, are injected deep into the
ground. There is a real risk that they will get into the aquifers we
use for drinking water and for the irrigation of our crops.

There is not only the toxicity of the chemicals to worry about, but
the wastewater that is recaptured from the underground drilling has
been found to have radioactive contaminants. These radioactive
contaminants are released from the rocks deep underground and are
brought up to the surface in the drilling mud and in the natural gas.
There is no way to scrub the radioactive gases from the gas. Every
time you light your stove, you are introducing radioactive gases into
your home.

Due to the exemptions given to the gas industry, these gas companies
do not have to act responsibly and they do not.  The EPA is powerless.
The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act exempts
the gas industry from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe
Drinking Water Act, and other “right to know” laws. The gas industry
does not need to clean up toxic discharges from these fracking well
sites whether it is to the ground or to nearby streams. They don’t
want to be bothered to clean-up their toxic sludge or any of the other
damage they cause to the land, air or local water supplies. When
people complain, the gas companies say “prove it” and “go find a
lawyer.”  People who get sick and sue the gas companies are fought
tooth and nail, and the last person standing is often bought-off and silenced
with non-disclosure agreements.

If any of you would like to read more about the issues, there are
websites with more information. Two I know of are
www.foodandwaterwatch.org and www.sierraclub.org. The
Union of Concerned Scientists
also has information.

I know many of you don’t particularly like environmentalists; however,
I urge to watch this movie for the sake of your children,
grandchildren and the many American citizens who have already been
harmed by this process. If you watch it and feel there is no cause
for concern, then you have only lost about an hour of your time. For
those of you who feel the same fear we do, it is time to take action.
One easy step we can all take is to write our State and Federal
representatives about our concerns. (email your State Representatives and Senators and Governor)

We all love this country both for its great beauty and diversity
as well as the ideals we hold dear. Please do not consider this a
political issue. It is one that will affect all of us.

****

In addition to the valid concerns expressed in this letter, it is also worth noting that in Pennsylvania there is an outrageous gag order placed upon physicians who might try to counsel their patients about the deleterious health effects of fracking in their communities.  From Physicians News Digest:

The law, known as Act 13 of 2012, an amendment to Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, requires that companies provide to a state-maintained registry the names of chemicals and gases used in fracking. Physicians and others who work with citizen health issues may request specific information, but the company doesn’t have to provide that information if it claims it is a trade secret or proprietary information, nor does it have to reveal how the chemicals and gases used in fracking interact with natural compounds. If a company does release information about what is used, health care professionals are bound by a non-disclosure agreement that not only forbids them from warning the community of water and air pollution that may be caused by fracking, but which also forbids them from telling their own patients what the physician believes may have led to their health problems. A strict interpretation of the law would also forbid general practitioners and family practice physicians who sign the non-disclosure agreement and learn the contents of the “trade secrets” from notifying a specialist about the chemicals or compounds, thus delaying medical treatment.

The clauses are buried on pages 98 and 99 of the 174-page bill, which was initiated and passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed into law in February by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

It is sad and infuriating to me that this kind of law could be passed. I can’t see how it is constitutional, and it certainly seems immoral. But even more distressing is the disregard we have for the environment and our own health.

I would urge you to learn more about this process since chances are it will be coming to a watershed near you.

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