|November 28, 2013|
Previously published on November 25, 2013
Fracking is one of the most controversial environmental issues of the day. Haven't heard of it? Hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) involves breaking open -- or fracturing -- of otherwise impermeable oil and gas bearing geologic formations. The rock is injected with a highly pressurized mixture of water, 'proppant.' and chemicals forcing it to fracture, thus allowing the release of gas or oil through the minuscule cracks.
As of 2010 it was estimated that around 60% of all new oil and gas wells worldwide were being hydraulically fractured. Since horizontal oil or gas wells were unusual prior to the 1980s, it should come as a concern that this industry has so quickly become a hot environmental issue. Horizontal wells proved much more effective than traditional vertical wells in producing oil from the tight chalk; the shale runs horizontally so a horizontal well reached much more of the resource.
More than one million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been performed in the United States as of 2012, with 1.5 million on oil and gas wells worldwide. Opponents of fracking have emphasized the unknown risk of the chemicals used in the development of fracked oil and gas. They argue that the process has caused subsurface pollution of drinking water resources and harm to sensitive environmental receptors. There is concern that fracking may lead to the permeation of unknown and potentially toxic chemicals into our waterways and underground reservoirs.
A federally listed threatened fish species in Kentucky, the Blackside Dace, exhibited gill lesions consistent with exposure to acidic water and heavy metals, the hydraulic fracturing fluid release was linked strongly to the die-off. This study is the first to link a surface release of hydraulic fracturing fluid to significant ecologic harm, and certainly the first related to a federally listed species giving rise to greater environmental concerns and a call for stricter laws for the fracking industry.