El Paso: Earthquake or Fracking?

The word fracking.  It used to remind me of the cooky show from the 80s: Fraggle Rock.  Now it only reminds me of a drilling process used to remove as much oil and natural gas from the Earth as possible.  Fracking is short for hydraulic fracking in which companies pump massive amounts of water and chemicals into the Earth to “fracture” and create new channels in the rock which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of fossil fuels.  When the water and used chemicals are drawn out they are left to sit in a retaining pool, either above ground or cemented closed underground.  The retaining pools many times are found to have leaks and chemicals are released into our environment.  Not all of the water and chemicals can be extracted back out, therefore the chemicals seep into our water supply.  Check out these numbers, “There are more than 50,000 disposal wells in Texas servicing more than 216,000 active drilling wells, according the the Railroad Commission. Each well uses about 4.5 million gallons of chemical-laced water, according to hydrolicfracturing.com.”  Insane.  Oh and the chemicals they speak of are a blend made mainly of water, salt and sand but also infused with a wide range of chemicals, including acids, alcohols and hydroxides, which aid in breaking the shale and coal formations.

To understand the process and health effects of these chemicals on the environment and human health I highly recommend watching the documentary Gashole.  www.gasholemovie.com/  The documentary is an eye opener to exactly what fracking is and the cost it has on human health!  It definitely makes you think twice about your water supply and what is in it. 

I was inspired to write this blog last week after a 2.5 earthquake hit El Paso.  It is not unlikely for this area to have small earthquakes.  After recently chatting with a seismologist that resides in this area, he mentioned many fault lines and recent small earthquakes in nearby Mexico.  So the 2.5 earthquake is not out of the question.  Or is it?

Now why am I talking about these two items together, fracking and earthquakes?  New research has linked fracking and earthquakes.  The earthquakes associated with fracking sites are generally low (2-3 on the Richter scale).  This is happening all over the country.  Check out this headline from today on MSNBC,  “A dozen earthquakes that struck Ohio in 2011 appear to have been induced by the workings of a wastewater well, the state Department of Natural Resources said Friday, as it announced new rules for the disposal of a fracking byproduct because of its apparent link to the tremors.”  These stories are everywhere and it is hitting El Paso!

We have several natural gas plants all around El Paso and our city buses run on “clean” natural gas.  It may burn cleaner than oil but the cost of fracking has a large effect on our water supply.  But I am making some assumptions.  I looked into a little bit of El Paso Natural Gas Company and other companies to find out if they are fracking in the area.  A bill passed in May 2011 makes companies list the chemicals they use on a website to monitor fracking.  I looked up if there were any in El Paso and did not find a listing.  But they only list since Jan 2011 and fracking has been going on since the 1940s!  I wonder what is going on now in our own backyards that we may not know about.   The companies are harvesting natural gas, how are they doing it?

At what point do we start to move away from fossil fuels?  Are we really going to go to every extreme measure (war, fracking) to utilize every drop of fossil fuel left in the earth?  We live in the sun city.  The city buses that run on “clean” natural gas energy are called the “Sun Metro”.  El Paso recieves about 300 days of sun per year.   Sun.  Sun.  Sun.  I think we all know where I am going with this.  Invest our efforts in solar.  Create technology that which increases solar panel efficiency and decreases cost. 

These thoughts ran through my head the other day when we were out exploring an old volcano in New Mexico.  It was beautiful and remote.   The area was so remote we drove about 30 minutes on dirt roads in the middle of the desert.  I blame the guidebook, because the only mention of what were slow moving, dirt, very remote, treacherous roads, was it said, “very few visitors to this area”.   The volcano was definitely worth the trip but on our way in and different way out we passed several natural gas company areas.  All of them from El Paso Natural Gas.  Perhaps we should be investigating their processes and making sure the public knows what is seeping into our groundwater before it is too late?   A story like this seems that it always has to get real bad with lots of evidence before something is done about it.  I don’t feel like waiting.

Here are some pics from Aden Crater Volcano in New Mexico:

Very remote roads!
Aden Volcano and my mom.

Rugged Terrain inside the volcano.

Exploring the 110 foot hole where the vent was. 

Oh and researchers found the remains of a giant sloth in this area that now resides at the Smithsonian Museum!  Cool!

I try and teach kids everyday to be curious and question things.  Well I am curious about this fracking and earthquake relationship.  I am more curious to find out exactly what the natural gas companies in this area are doing.  I will keep you posted on my finds.  I have a suspicion they won’t be pleasant.  The worst part about it, I will feel guilty about taking the city bus on my bike rides home!!!  I would venture to say, mass transit it still better than individual cars so I will not fret.

Aren’t you curious now too?

It was much easier when fracking reminded me of Fraggle Rock.


This entry was posted in Aden Volcano, earthquake, el paso, El Paso Natural Gas, fracking, natural gas, New Mexico, oil. Bookmark the permalink.

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