What the Fracking?

Lately, you can’t read a newspaper or watch the news without seeing something about fracking. Even a nearby city, Denton, made some big moves this past week passing a fracking ban with 59 percent of the votes. Areas in California and Ohio joined in on fracking bans but the ball swings the other way as well, Illinois recently approved fracking in their state.

Even with all the fracking media, it’s common for people to lack an understanding of what fracking is, why we do it and it’s effects on the environment. Here’s the lowdown on fracking and how it relates to you:

Fracking is simply a drilling process used to remove as much oil and natural gas from the Earth as possible. It has opened up an area of drilling that otherwise would be very time consuming and expensive to do. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracking, is the process of pumping massive amounts of water and chemicals into geological formations to “fracture” and create new channels in the rock which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of fossil fuels. They are basically pulverizing rock formations to extract natural gas. The fracking solution used is a blend of water, salt, sand and infused with a wide range of chemicals (up to 345 different chemicals used in some cases), including acids, alcohols and hydroxides, which aid in breaking the shale and coal formations.

What’s the big deal?

Fracking isn’t free and there are environmental and health impacts. Fracking uses a lot of water, a vital resource especially in Texas, in the actual process. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that 70-140 billion gallons of water was used in fracking in 2010.

The use of chemicals leads to water quality issues. When the solution of water and chemicals is drawn out of the well after fracking, the solution is 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. Chemicals also seep into our water supply from the leftover solution that was not able to be extracted back out of the rock.

Fracking plants also emit methane pollution, a known greenhouse gas along with other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These environmental impacts lead to local communities being concerned about water and air pollution affecting their health. According to the endocrinedisruption.org (an organization that focuses primarily on the human health and environmental problems caused by low-dose and/or ambient exposure to chemicals) over 78% of the chemicals they found in fracking solutions are associated with skin, eye or sensory organ effects, respiratory effects and gastrointestinal or liver effects. A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives surveyed people for health issues residing at different distances to a fracking well and concluded that the “proximity of natural gas wells may be associated with the prevalence of health symptoms including dermal and respiratory conditions in residents.”

How are you connected?

Soon you will be very connected to natural gas. As the weather turns colder we will rush to our thermostats and crank on the heat. Many North Texas homes are heated by natural gas. In 2013, Texas was the top producer of natural gas accounting for about 29% of the US natural gas production (US Energy Information Agency). Texas is also the leading user of natural gas among all the states.

We rely on this energy source but the energy source comes at a cost. The more we conserve and less we use the less fracking and it’s impacts will effect us. Don’t forget to turn your heat down when you leave for work in the morning, try setting your thermostat a little lower and throw a sweatshirt on instead. This winter is forecasted to be a cold one, which relates to high gas usage and more fracking. Let’s cut down on the fracking and the harmful impacts. Remember your connection to fracking as the cold weather comes in.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly November 14-20, 2014. 

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