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The Dangers of Fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing, or “fracking,” continues to be one of the most serious challenges facing our environment today. In order to extract natural methane gas for an “alternative” source of energy, hundreds of chemicals, many of which are toxic, neurotoxic, or even carcinogenic, are injected into the ground to fracture rock and release methane. Not only do many of these chemicals then leak into surrounding lands, streams, aquifers and wells, but the vast amounts of wastewater created by the process are also highly toxic, and contaminate whatever they come in contact with, especially as adequate wastewater disposal is not always available. 

The industry has attempted to keep the identity of these chemicals secret or “proprietary,” making it difficult for individuals suffering health effects to even know exactly to which chemicals they have been exposed. It has been learned that in some instances, diesel has been used, although specifically prohibited. The large number of wells drilled has in other states already turned landscapes into an industrial wasteland, created air pollution, and had a devastating result for wildlife. While the gas industry claims that wastewater will be “recycled” to use again in the fracking process, this is not a real solution to the wastewater problem because the water becomes even more toxic if it used to frack repeatedly, and disposal of this contaminated water is still required.

The effects of fracking have been repeatedly documented, for example, in the powerful motion picture “Gaslands” by Josh Fox, which was recently nominated for an Academy Award. On February 27, 2011, an article in the New York Times revealed that radioactive radon gas released by the fracking process has created a problem with radioactive wastewater disposal in Pennsylvania, where many wells have been drilled to frack the “Marcellus Shale” formation, and stated that radioactive wastewater has been discharged into the Monangahela River, from which comes Pittsbugh╩╝s drinking water supply. In some instances, wastewater from fracked wells has been found to have radioactivity over 1,000 times in excess of permissible standards.

It has been difficult to regulate fracking in part because, amazingly, the hydraulic fracturing industry in 2005 was exempted from compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and several other environmental laws. This exemption is known as the “Halliburton loophole” because it was added to these laws by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has strong ties to Halliburton.

Now this dangerous practice of fracking is coming to a watershed near you, and it must be stopped! Plans are underway for fracking in both the Delaware River basin, and upstate New York. Former Governor Paterson signed a moratorium on fracking in New York State, but it lasts only until July 1, 2011. The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has issued draft regulations that would permit fracking in the basin, including watershed areas that affect the drinking water supplies for both New York and Philadelphia. DRBC has held only three public hearings on these regulations, none of which were in New York or Philadelphia, and attempts have been made to get DRBC to schedule more hearings. The DRBC is, however, accepting public comments on the regulations until April 15, 2011, so it is extremely important that you contact them and voice your concerns. The New York City Council Committee on the Environment also held a public hearing on fracking on March 1, 2011, followed by an activist rally, which will be the first of many demanding that fracking be banned.

Additionally, three New York State congressional representatives have now called upon congress to hold its own hearings on the impacts of fracking.

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