Fracking - The Killing of America

In Bradford County Pennsylvania, Truman Barnett's home has all the trapping of a rural hideaway. Deer antlers adorn the side of the house and a US flag flies gingerly over the carefully tended doorstep. But the serenity is broken by a low vibration, a nagging hum that churns the stomach. It is a disorientating experience. The source of the disturbance is a gas well constructed a couple of hundred yards from his home, and the unpleasant vibration is a 24-hour reminder of the compressor that whirrs away on the site.

‘The only thing you heard at night-time was your heartbeat. Now it's just totally devastated here. Inside my home you can hear and see the pictures vibrate on the walls,’ he says. There have been two spills on the site above him to date, plant life and pond animals on his land have reportedly died, and the impact on his family has been profound. ‘Our drinking water and our house has high concentrations of lead, they've told us not to drink it and don't bathe in it... from our heaven it's turned into our hell.’

What Is Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing (called fracking) is a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks. The most important industrial use is in stimulating oil and gas wells, where hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years in more than one million wells. The fracturing is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations to increase the rate and ultimate recovery of oil and natural gas.

Fracking requires injecting large volumes of fresh water and sand into the rocks, fracturing them and freeing the gas. The pressurized water and sand keep the fractures open. Small amounts of toxic chemicals sometimes are added to the water and sand to make it easier to extract more gas.

Some of the water used in the fracking process returns from the bottom of the well as a briny, chemical- and metal-laden mixture. It usually is stored in open pits until it is trucked to treatment plants or underground injection wells.

Opponents of fracking cite about 1,000 cases of improperly constructed wells, sloppy operations and drilling through shallow layers of methane that have contaminated drinking water across the country.

Considerable controversy surrounds the current implementation of hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States. Environmental safety and health concerns have emerged and are being debated at the state and national levels.

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The Hidden Costs of the U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing

The gas stored in the Marcellus Shale formation is the subject of desperate drilling to secure US domestic energy supplies. But the process involved - hydraulic fracturing - is the focus of a bitter dispute over environmental damage and community rights

It is a timeless patchwork of small dairy farms and endless hills, emblazoned with the blood-red tints of an autumnal Pennsylvania forest. Set against this sleepy backdrop, however, the constant convoys of water trucks rumbling along the deserted country roads suggest something profound is taking place. This is ‘fracking’ country, the latest frontier in America’s desperate search for fossil fuels.

Pioneered by companies such as Halliburton, high-volume horizontal slickwater fracturing – otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, or simply fracking – involves the drilling of horizontal wells that are then injected with large volumes of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to open up rock fractures and help propel rock-trapped gas back to the surface. For landowners, those in the gas industry and governments of cash-strapped US states that find themselves sitting on the gas-rich lines of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, this new technique has opened up lucrative opportunities and created a rush unseen for decades. Vast reserves of previously untappable natural gas, perhaps in excess of 50 trillion cubic feet of gas, can now be extracted on US soil, and the arguments used by advocates of fracking seem impressive.

Fracking is currently taking America by storm. In Pennsylvania alone, government estimates predict that 3,000-4,000 new wells will be drilled each year for the next 30 years. And America is not alone: test sites have already been set up over gas-holding shale formations in Poland, France, England and Germany. So where is the catch, and what can these European countries expect? The Ecologist visited Pennsylvania to find out. Read More...

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Will the Boom in Natural Gas Drilling Contaminate America's Water Supply?


The Frack Attack - What Can We Do?

This attack on America will have consequences far into the future. Our energy use has gotten out of control. The cheap, quick energy has become less and less available, and so our extraction methods have become riskier and riskier - now if you extrapolate that into 10 years, you have mountaintop removal, the destruction to health, water, landscape; you couple that with deep ocean drilling, you couple that with hydro-fracturing, you couple that with tar sands distillery... we are only going to see greater degradation, more and more catastrophes, and greater catastrophes.

The gas and oil industry and our politicians have a strangle hold on us. Are we going to continue to put our lives, our health, our well being into the hands of politicians and corporations who consistently say they have our back, and at the same time, screw the bejesus out of us? It's time to take back our nation.

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