Monday, March 19, 2012

What Americans Get from Fracking

Originally written by me, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, as guest blogger for Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, posted at

Americans get a lot out of the new technological process called hydrofracking (fracking) – but most of what we get, we absolutely don’t want. 

Fracking is the process used to blast natural gas from the ancient rocks that serve as the foundation of our surface lands.  Each “frack” of a gas well, used to explode the underground rock in order to release the bubbles of gas it contains, requires an average of 5 million gallons of water per well, all of which gets infused with a toxic slurry of some subset of over 500 chemicals.  As much as 80 percent of this water gets trapped underground were this chemical infused brew can slowly migrate through cracks and boreholes (natural and now manmade) including into aquifers that serve as drinking water for people.  What does return to the surface contains dangerous chemicals as well as a host of harmful substances it has pulled from the geology it has passed through, including radioactive materials. 

With as many as 32,000 to 64,000 wells over the Marcellus Shale formations that lie within the Delaware River watershed (that includes 8,784 square miles of Pennsylvania and New York) that is as much as 160 billion to 320 billion gallons of water that is lost for safe human consumption in just this one corner of the country.  The chemicals that are added to the fresh surface water comprise anywhere from .5 to 2 percent of the volume of that “frack” water, meaning 25,000 to 100,000 gallons of chemicals are introduced to the earth from just one shale gas drilling well – multiply that by 64,000 wells and you have a lot of dangerous chemicals. And that’s just the water pollution.

Each well requires 3 to 5 acres of land disturbance for each well pad, plus miles of roads and pipeline.  According to a new study, in just Pennsylvania, 60,000 to 150,000 acres of forest could be lost to the pipelines alone. Each drilling well also requires over 1,500 truck trips to service it – trucks burning dirty diesel fuel.  And now we learn, that all this new drilling is also inducing construction of new liquefied natural gas facilities (LNG facilities) intended to ship the gas to foreign countries for a higher price than can be had in the U.S.  In fact, according to a statement out of the U.S. Department of Energy, 10 percent of our daily consumption of natural gas has already been approved for shipment overseas with another 10 percent being decided upon within the next few months and likely to receive export approval.

Invasive drilling operations, pollution spills, laws that strip municipalities of their zoning authorities, and laws that force homeowners to allow drilling under their private lands are among the insults that U.S. residents are suffering in order to service the gas drilling industry.

Our children need the clean water, the fresh air, the healthy forests that we had as children – in fact, I think they deserve even better than we had as kids.  It is time for this country to make a genuine commitment to sustainable energy, sustainable development practices, and a healthy future for our kids.  Nature is a life sustaining gift passed down from generation to generation – let us be sure that our gift to future generations includes an energy path that will provide for all of their needs – the power they need to live a modern day life, but also the water, air and forests they need to live, grow and thrive.

What can you do?
The evidence against gas drilling grows every day.  The reason why legislators in Congress and a number of states are attempting to take action on this issue is because people are getting informed and speaking up.  So do all you can to stay connected to the issue and to take action whenever the opportunity arises.  A few key ways to speak up right now that will make a difference:

  • At the Federal level, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, The FRAC Act, which would remove the gas and oil industry’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act, is under consideration. The US Congress will also be considering the BREATHE Act which would remove exemptions and ensure critical Clean Air Act provisions apply to gas drilling.  We need to tell our Congressmen and Senators we support these efforts to ensure our drinking water and air are protected from pollution by gas drilling.  Write your Congressman and Senators and urge them to sign on as co-sponsors of the FRAC and BREATHE acts.  
  • In Pennsylvania, new legislation has passed that strips municipalities of their right to control drilling, through zoning, in their communities.   The power to prevent drilling sites within 300 feet of a school, for example, has been taken from community officials.  Write your Pennsylvania legislator and tell them you oppose any steps that prevent a community from protecting themselves from gas drilling.  
  • The Delaware River basin continues to be frack free due to a moratorium in place that prohibits drilling unless and until the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) passes regulations that allow it.  This is setting important precedent for the country and ensuring the protection of the drinking water for over 15 million people, including those living in New York City and Philadelphia.  Help keep the pressure up and send your letter to the DRBC today urging them to keep the Delaware River and its watershed frac free.
  • Consider adding your family to the photo album of folks who want to be protected from gas drilling that will be shared with the Governors of NY, NJ, PA and DE, as well as the Army Corps Colonel who represents the President at the Delaware River Basin Commission  -- there is nothing more powerful than a picture.  Add your picture at


  1. I attended the meeting last week in the Palisades.
    Basically the lawmakers were not really asking for feedback. they were explaining "what will be" and how they are trying to negotiate the best conditions for our collective surrender....

    My Comments:

    There is established Legal Precedence for a Ban on Fracking:

    Referencing the new "No Smoking" law in public areas....

    Point #1 The people doing the smoking either don't think there is a danger or they don't care... (The O&G industry).
    Point #2 There are contaminating public spaces...(Fracking contaminates the Public Air, Land and Water).

    Point #3 Other people DO think that there is a danger and feel that their Health, Safety and Property values will be adversely effected...
    Point #4 The Smokers (O&G Industry) do not agree...and insist that there is no proof of danger..(Even if there is proof).
    Point #5 40 or 50 years later, (after much damage has been done), everyone admits that there was danger and Smoking is now banned in many public places.....

    The question is:

    Did the non smokers always have the right to breath clean air or not?

    Do the people that live in the Delaware Watershed have the right to water and air and land that that not been intentionally compromised by a Natural Gas Industrial assault or NOT?

    It really comes down to a Yes or No answer...

    The same scenario can be used for Noise pollution, Blinking electric signs in residential areas, the speeding laws on our common roadways, the privatization of the national parks, dog litter on public beaches, Litter laws in general.....Street fighters and criminals harassing civilians in public places...
    The list goes on and on..

    Do the people who want to live in Peace and Health and Quiet have the right to do so?

    Or is the system set up so that when ever someone (or some corporation) decides to move in next door and disrupt everything and directly effect you health, Peace of mind and property values, the existing residents have no real (effective) recourse or protection....

    If this is truly the situation then the system is broken and the truth that we really have little say (or no say at all) needs to be broadcast loudly and widely so that everyone understands what the real rules are.
    "Every man must fend for an protect himself "and that most of what we perceive and have been taught to rely on is (in fact) an illusion...

    Rent your house and if a compressor station or a drilling site is built next door (or up on the hill) and you don't like it, you have 3 options:
    You can do nothing and hope that you don't get effected..
    #2 You can argue and dedicate you life to fighting the jury rigged system...
    #3 or you can Move...

    Just my observations....

    The next meeting is tonight...
    I am not sure that I will attend since feedback is not welcome and I already know the details..

  2. Usually, gas and oil operators try to fool people by coming up with padded benefits out of hydraulic fracturing when in fact, its odds outweigh its evens. Fracking accident happens in sites where drilling operations occur and there are other negative impact that should serve as eye-opener for people.